YUM Brands Will Have To Do Better Than Mea Culpa for Taco Bell

About the video of rats running wild in a New York City Taco Bell, Yum Brands president Emil Brolick said:
David Kiley

About the video of rats running wild in a New York City Taco Bell, Yum Brands president Emil Brolick said: "We have taken what has happened in New York very seriously." The statement was made in a videotaped message posted on the company's KFC and Taco Bell websites.

“We apologize to our customers and want to reassure them that we have been working around the clock to prevent this from happening again. We have engaged Dr. Robert (Bobby) Corrigan to thoroughly and independently review the application of the high standards we require of our operators in New York City. Dr. Corrigan is a renowned expert in the area of pest control in challenging urban environments and we look forward to his review."

The incident captured on video merely confirmed what most of us know. Despite the little certificates of cleanliness posted in fast-food joints, sanitation in eateries is something we're better off not knowing about. Only now we do.

The video broadcast on television and the Net a week ago showed rats running wild at a KFC/Taco Bell restaurant just one day after the outlet had passed a city Health Department inspection. Shocking! A complacent health inspector. In New York City even?

Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant kitchen knows that vermin is a fact of life. Where there is food and low-wage workers, there are rats and mice. Anyone who has worked in a restaurant and hasn't carried a mouse out of a walk-in fridge...raise your hand! if you raised your hand, then you weren't really working.

"I would worry much more about poor hygiene on the part of employees of a restaurant than mice or rats living in the basement," said Philip Alcabes, a professor at New York's Hunter College School of Health Sciences in a Reuters story. Oh that's much better! I feel good now.

"If you were to ask me would I eat in a restaurant where there were rats, I would say I probably already do."

If the people working fast food (and I used to be one) were really so conscientious, why do they need a sign in the bathroom reminding them to wash their hands before going back to work. One would wish it was common sense and decency.

Nobody likes to think of rats and restaurants in the same sentence. But as I scan the Net for news, I keep seeing Taco Bell and KFC in digital headlines with the words..."Pests" "Rats" "Rodents." That can't be good for business.

On Friday, Yum shares closed at $56.51, down from 59.22 on Monday. But that's in line with the dip in the overall market this week. That means that Wall Street, which haas its own problems with rats this week, isn't making a big deal out if it, at least until same-store results for Taco Bell and KFC come out.

I have to say...I will be shocked if there isn't some fallout. That image of rats running wild in the kitchen after hours, and the site of Jay Leno holding a faux Chalupa with a rat tail hanging out of it as it was wriggling in is hand...put me off fast-food for a long time.

I invite any readers who have worked at restaurants to post their horror stories here on my blog.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.