Irresistible Taco Shells
Taco Bell said the taco shells licked by an employee in a viral photo last week were not served to customers as part of training for a new product and "were in the process of being thrown out," but the employee has been fired.
The product is presumably Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos, which were released in March. The photo shows a man in uniform in a Taco Bell restaurant licking a stack of about 30 taco shells.
"Two employees, however, used them to take a photo for an internal contest in which company and franchise employees could submit for approval photos of themselves enjoying their first bite of the product," Taco Bell said in a statement on its website. "The contest had clear guidelines about what was acceptable and unacceptable. This image was clearly unacceptable – it violated the rules and spirit of the contest, and the employees never submitted it. But an employee posted it on a personal social media page in violation of the franchisee's policies, and it emerged online in social media."
The company, owned by Yum! Brands!, said it is continuing its investigation and the franchisee is cooperating fully. The photo of the lickable stack of taco shells was posted to Taco Bell's Facebook page on Sunday.
The company, whose sales have skyrocketed in the last year because of its Doritos Locos tacos, said the taco shells were "absolutely not" served to customers.
"The taco shells were sent to restaurants for training purposes before the new product launch, so team members could use them to practice making the new product before it became available to the public," the company said on Monday on its website. "These shells were a part of that training, were never intended to be served to customers, and were discarded. This is standard operating procedure, and our franchisee confirmed this protocol."
A spokesman said the company has not disclosed information about the store location.
"We do not believe these employees harmed, or intended to harm, anyone. But we deplore the impressions this has caused to our customers, fans, franchisees, and team members," the company said on its website. "The behavior is unacceptable for people working in a restaurant. Our franchisee is responsible for the employment and conduct of his restaurant's employees and he has informed us that he immediately suspended the employee shown in the photo and is in the process of terminating his employment. The employee who took the photo no longer works there. As we complete our investigation we will work with our franchisee to implement any additional action we find appropriate to address this situation and ensure it never happens again."