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Burger King calls you a hero for sitting on your couch while ignoring the people cooking that Whopper

“Stay at Home of the Whopper” touts the ease of ordering BK at home, but the tougher issue is the safety of the person cooking and delivering it.

Burger King calls you a hero for sitting on your couch while ignoring the people cooking that Whopper

In its newest commercial, Burger King is saluting you for staying home amid the pandemic.

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“Your country needs you to stay on your couch and order in. Do your part and we’ll do ours. Order through the Burger King app and the delivery fees are on us. So staying home doesn’t just make us all safer, it makes you a couchpotatriot.”

The fast feeder is also donating Whoppers to nurses and supporting the American Nurses Foundation. Created by agency FCB, it’s a good ad that manages to maintain the Burger King brand’s sense of humor while still addressing the stay-at-home situation that many of its customers now find themselves.

It’s a tricky time for advertising in that, as I’ve said before, thanks to the public’s ability to call out corporate behavior directly, the gap between what brands say and how they act has been graaaaaadually narrowing. But it’s in times like this a company’s actions matter even more.

It’s nice and all that BK thinks you’re such a hero for ordering its food from your couch, but it’s incredibly difficult to pat yourself on the back without thinking for a second about how that burger gets to your door in the first place.

Burger King is staffed by people who make minimum wage and are now considered essential workers.

The internet is full of jokes built on the idea that during WWII, national sacrifice meant enlisting and fighting the Axis in Normandy or Okinawa; now all you have to do is stay home and binge Netflix. It’s glib and funny, but it does give short shrift to what’s happening outside for folks who aren’t so lucky. However nice it is to throw a shout-out of broad appreciation to “Everyone out there in the hospitals and delivering food,” the false equivalence is stark. For those who entered the healthcare profession as a doctor or nurse, we can safely assume that saving lives is part of the reason they did it. Whereas absolutely, 100% NO ONE who works at Burger King had that vision when they first filled out that application, and the low compensation and lack of job security reflect that.

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The privilege of staying at home and social isolation is laid bare in fast food. As one McDonald’s worker in St. Louis told Fast Company last week, they’re facing a double-edged sword of increased risk at work while making less money, thanks to cut hours.

BK parent Restaurant Brands International CEO Jose Cil wrote an open letter on March 30 that outlined how the company will be providing employees up to 14 days of paid sick leave if they’re either diagnosed with COVID-19 or asked to self-isolate by a manager or medical professional. In addition, workers at corporate-owned locations will also receive an added pay bonus for the month of April to “recognize their tremendous service to our guests and communities during this difficult time,” and the company would be delivering 15,000 infrared thermometers to all locations to monitor workers’ health before they start their shifts.

All positive moves.

However, more than 90% of Burger King locations are actually owned by franchisees, which aren’t obligated to follow suit.

Today workers from 30 fast-food restaurants across California, including Burger King, have planned a walkout, inspired by strikes earlier this week at McDonald’s locations in the state, where two workers have now tested positive for coronavirus.

Studies show that low-income workers are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 for a number of reasons, but prime among them is that much of their work is still considered “essential,” leaving those that earn the least among the most vulnerable. The idea of being a “couchpotatriot” may sound funny, but these risks being taken by the people cooking the food, cleaning the kitchens, and delivering your Whopper to you safe and isolated in your home, and the underlying inequality it illustrates, are no joke.

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In a spot rolled out on March 23, a Burger King worker wearing protective gloves assured us that the brand is taking every precaution to keep its food safe. “Let us take care of you while you take care of yourself,” she says.

What about her?

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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