The last handful of hours have seemed like an eternity has passed. The amount of news, discourse, rage, and sweeping trends across the internet has created both a time void and a time suck, speeding up the minutes and slowing down the days of our quarantine lives. So when the story broke that a worker was fired for wearing a Black Lives Matter face mask to work at his Taco Bell, the internet reacted with swift and furious vengeance despite a corporate apology.

Thus is the way of Twitter.

So once #RIPTacoBell began trending, it was only a matter of time until more fuel got added to the flames, with lots of conversation about additional things, like Yum! Brands ($YUM) donating to GOP campaigns including the Presidential reelection committee through a Super PAC. This article isn't meant to get into the details of any of these points (this link covers restaurants donating to political candidates quite well) but is instead meant to show that Taco Bell was in trouble on social media long before this week happened.

For two straight years, Taco Bell has been losing 3% of its 10+ million likes on Facebook. The 'Talking About' count has also been extremely low these past few months, but that's probably connected to people not being able to go out as much during the global pandemic. Fast food establishments everywhere have been forced to temporarily close and find ways to deliver/serve food without contact, like curbside pick-up and new safety restrictions around the drive-thru lane. You ever been greeted by an employee outside with a tablet taking orders?

From mid-March until now, Taco Bell has also been losing followers on Twitter. This has to be mainly COVID-19's fault, as the #RIPTacoBell hashtag has only been trending for a day or so at this point.

The pandemic has caused all of the Yum! Brands to plateau in follower growth on Instagram as well, which usually sees a constant uptick in followers over time. Month over month the numbers are very flat, so teenagers bored this summer clearly aren't loitering at their local Taco Bell like we all used to back in the day. And just to cap off this entire trainwreck of a story/PR disaster for Taco Bell, here is an official statement from a spokesperson:

"We believe Black Lives Matter. We were disappointed to learn about the incident that took place in Youngstown, OH. We take this very seriously; we have been working closely with our franchisee that operates this location to address the issue. Our Chief People Officer and Yum!'s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer spoke with Denzel last week to apologize and discuss the situation. Our goal is to ensure our policies are inclusive and keep our team members and customers safe."

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.

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