Dominos YouTube Scandal (2009)

Delivering pizza across the globe since 1960, Domino’s was one of the first companies to suffer losses and reputational damage because of social media when to of their employees posted a video of themselves on YouTube.

In April 2009, two employees of a Domino’s pizza franchise in Conover, North Carolina (USA) filmed themselves doing “most unhygienic things” around and to pizzas in the preparation area of the store.

Kirsty Hammons and Michael Setzer later claimed the video was a hoax, despite the fairly damning implications of the footage they posted.  The upbeat film showed them rubbing food on their noses and sneezing on pizzas.  They were eventually fired, arrested, and found guilty by courts.  But it took Dominos two days to respond to the video, by which time it had been seen by 750k viewers; social media sites were awash with references and discussion about it and Domino had a massive reputational problem.

A news report explains the backstory:

As a global franchise, head office had less control over issues in store than if they’d owned all the chains themselves.  However, they also – arguably – had a greater responsibility to restore consumer confidence, as the livelihoods of each franchise were dependent on the reputation of the brand.

As Domino’s statement said, “The opportunities and freedom of the Internet is wonderful. But it also comes with the risk of anyone with a camera and an Internet link to cause a lot of damage, as in this case, where a couple of individuals suddenly overshadow the hard work performed by the 125,000 men and women working for Domino’s across the nation and in 60 countries around the world.

Once Dominos had gathered their thoughts they responded comprehensively.  Patrick Doyle, President of Dominos, issued a video of his own, apologizing for the behaviour of two rogue employees in one small US state, and reminding his audience about the hard work of the other staff around the world.  Domino’s now have some of the most interactive twitter feeds, with comments made for any reason often prompting a speedy response from someone at HQ in the customer’s country.  We’ve even been to talks given by their communications leaders, explaining what happened and advising other communications professionals the lessons they learned the hard way.

See Patrick Doyle’s 2 minute video response here:

What can business continuity planners learn from Dominos?

  • Reputation matters.  If your values, behaviour or trust is in doubt, you may find people vote with their mouths, keyboards and ultimately, their wallets.
  • Social media lets anyone say anything at any time.  Staff and the public can now create the narrative for your business instantly.  Accept you can’t control it and make a plan to respond to it: when they reacted, Dominos did a great job.
  • Have a social media policy, and promote it.   Many employment contracts state that employees can’t share confidential information or do anything that would bring the company into disrepute.  Translate this for modern times and say what it means for social media.  Remember positive updates from happy staff can be  great PR!
  • Consider claiming the authoritative channel.  If your employees tweet or facebook, so can you.  Setting up @YOURORG(OFFICIAL) on twitter means you can respond as the authoritative voice.  Consider using it for non-confidential messages too; if you have an emergency communications protocol, consider whether social media channels would complement your plans.
  • Consider using social media channels to create a positive dialogue with your staff, customers, suppliers, friends and acquaintances before anything negative happens.  Check out Dominos twitter feeds in the US, Australia and UK, to see how they interact with customers to create a positive stream: should something negative happen, it may be easier to restore an existing positive dialogue than start from scratch. (Even we have one, follow us on twitter @ContinuityInBiz!)
  • Decide if and how you’d monitor what’s being said about you on the internet.  Set up a Google alert to send you emails if Google spots a mention (it’s very, very good, though we haven’t seen it catch tweets yet).  Depending on the size of your organisation you may decide to have alerts sent as they happen, once a day or once a week.  Decide who will monitor these.
  • Know when it’s time to field the big boss.  Sometimes its good to keep the big boss in reserve, but sometimes only s/he will do, so take time to consider who the best person to respond might be under what circumstances.
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