bannerFranchisor Stories

Burger King Flame Broiled for Failed International Women’s Day Tweet

The fast-food giant’s misguided International Women’s Day tweet went viral for all the wrong reasons.

By Alex Lockie1851 Franchise Editor
Updated 11:11AM 03/08/21

Burger King’s UK Twitter account tweeted on Monday that “Women belong in the kitchen” as a part of a coordinated International Women’s Day advertising campaign that, so far, has backfired spectacularly and inspired a cascade of outrage directed toward the brand on social media. 

In follow-up tweets, Burger King called attention to the fact that only 20% of chef jobs are held by women and that the brand would launch a scholarship program for young Burger King employees with culinary dreams. 

But the damage had been done, and outraged social media users bashed the brand relentlessly as the opening tweet sailed to more than 230,000 retweets. 

“Burger King belongs in the trashcan” comedian Chelsea Peretti replied. “Because its not good food,” she continued

KFC got in on the fun, too, imploring the brand to delete the tweet with a popular meme. Burger King responded earnestly, sticking to its guns in a phenomenon known as “tweeting through it.”

How Did Burger King’s Tweet Go Wrong?

Burger King started with the noble goal of championing female empowerment through an investment in its female employees. In announcing that program, however, the brand employed a misogynistic trope that is decidedly damaging for women.

It is likely that Burger King intended to shock audiences with its initial tweet and then soothe them with the follow-ups. Of course, this all happened online, and it’s critical to remember that on social media, it’s easy to offend people with a bold statement and extremely difficult to reconcile with people with a nuanced statement. 

Burger King’s tweet appears to borrow language from a print ad the brand ran in the New York Times. The print ad, like the tweet, leads with the message: “Women belong in the kitchen.”

That message appears in large text above small text announcing the H.E.R. (Helping Equalize Restaurants) Scholarship. 

But Twitter isn’t a newspaper. Newspaper readers expect a statement in a headline to be justified and explained by the body of a story. On Twitter, individual tweets need to stand on their own merit, as they can be easily shared and stripped of context. 

How Brands Can Avoid Social Media Disasters 

Burger King has been widely praised recently for its bold brand refresh, efforts to pivot to more sustainable food and promote diversity, but the International Women’s Day tweet will and should go down in history as a failed effort. 

Women’s right to equality in the workplace isn’t a joke. If a brand wants to discuss women’s advancement in the workplace, it can do so without the language of blatant, oppressive sexism.  

Also, the tweet itself makes sense only as a thinly veiled attempt to provoke outrage. Women belong in the kitchen… If they want to, of course, is Burger King’s assertion. Burger King’s own suggested remedy for the situation — a scholarship — suggests the problem runs a bit deeper than women simply not wanting to excel in their careers. 

If Burger King had simply announced the H.E.R. initiative, it would have gotten less press than the social media meltdown, but for international brands with thousands of franchisees, perhaps there is such a thing as bad press.