‘Women Belong In The Kitchen’: Burger King’s International Women’s Day Tweet Goes Down In Flames

As social media blunders go, this was a whopper.

Mar 9, 2021 - 20:00
‘Women Belong In The Kitchen’: Burger King’s International Women’s Day Tweet Goes Down In Flames
Burger King drive-through window does brisk business in Portsmouth, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

As blunders go, it was a whopper.

“Women belong in the kitchen.” For Burger King’s United Kingdom division, those five words tweeted on International Women's Day prompted a day of flame-grilled outrage from social media users.

The tweet was meant to be a humorous tease for a campaign promoting a cooking scholarship for female employees, but it fell flat.

Follow-up tweets put the first tweet in context: “If they want to, of course. Yet only 20% of chefs are women. We're on a mission to change the gender ratio.” 

Unfortunately for Burger King, many Twitter users never got past that first tweet, which hung there for hours and attracted a litany of abusive comments.

The fast-food giant’s social media team spent the rest of the day issuing explanations and apologies and finally removed the tweet.

The campaign worked much better in print. In the United States, the Burger King Foundation ran a full-page ad yesterday in the New York Times with the same headline, “Women belong in the kitchen,” emblazoned above the fold in a huge font.

The ad offered immediate context through the copy: “Fine dining kitchens, food truck kitchens, award-winning kitchens, casual dining kitchens, ghost kitchens, Burger King kitchens. If there’s a professional kitchen, women belong there.”

The ad continued: “But can you guess who’s leading those kitchens these days? Exactly. Only 24% of chef positions in America are occupied by women. Want to talk to head chefs? The number drops to fewer than 7%.”

Like many fast-food brands, Burger King has enjoyed a boost in popularity during a pandemic when drive-through lanes became a socially distant solution for hungry travelers and hometown diners alike.

The Burger King Foundation’s H.E.R. (Helping Equalize Restaurants) Scholarship will give two female employees a grant of $25,000 each to be used toward culinary education.

It’s a worthy program, Fer Machado, the global chief marketing officer at Restaurant Brand International, Burger King’s parent company, told Fast Company.

“It’s a real shame that it’s getting lost on the U.K. conversation,” said Machado. “In the end, the intention behind what we are doing here is really good. And the whole thing is more than just an ‘ad’ or a ‘tweet.’ But we are discussing here.”

Still, the backlash against Burger King may turn out to be a storm in a teacup compared to a recent PR disaster for Hyatt. A Nazi symbol integrated into the stage design at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held earlier this month at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida, fueled a campaign to boycott the hospitality brand.

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