Burger King has backtracked and apologized after it was slammed online for marketing its International Women’s Day initiative under the tagline “women belong in the kitchen.”
The fast food chain was advertising its scholarship program to support women in the restaurant industry.
Burger King’s U.K. arm announced it with a tweet that simply read: “Women belong in the kitchen.”
“If they want to, of course,” read a subsequent tweet. “Yet only 20% of chefs are women. We’re on a mission to change the gender ratio in the restaurant industry by empowering female employees with the opportunity to pursue a culinary career.”
“We are proud to be launching a new scholarship programme which will help female Burger King employees pursue their culinary dreams!”
The chain also took out a full-page ad in The New York Times with the sexist phrase in large print, with smaller text hashing out the details of the initiative and calling out poor representation of women in leadership roles in the restaurant industry.
“If there’s a professional kitchen, women belong there,” the ad reads.
The Burger King Foundation plans to award $25,000 each to two female employees to enroll in culinary studies under the Helping Equalize Restaurants scholarship, according to its website.
The reaction was mixed, to say the least. Many commenters called out the deliberate use of the sexist trope to get clicks and headlines. Others accused it of missing the mark.
“Surely it’s not the day for this? Any day tbh. Grabbing media attention by being deliberately obtuse? By reinforcing stereotypes (even in apparently good humour?) Not good marketing or behaviour,” one critic tweeted.
“How much more did these ads cost than those scholarships are worth?” another Twitter user wrote.
The criticism worsened when Burger King refused to heed feedback and doubled down.
KFC Gaming tweeted a meme in response to the initial tweet, suggesting that they delete the tweet immediately. The Burger King UK account replied: “Why would we delete a tweet that’s drawing attention to a huge lack of female representation in our industry, we thought you’d be on board with this as well?”
Eventually, Burger King’s tweet was deleted Monday evening.
“We hear you. We got our initial tweet wrong and we’re sorry,” a follow-up tweet read, with Burger King restating that its aim was to draw attention to the issue. “We will do better next time.”
“We decided to delete the original tweet after our apology. It was brought to our attention that there were abusive comments in the thread and we don’t want to leave the space open for that,” the account added in a second tweet.
The note did not address the full-page newspaper ad. Burger King did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
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