Burger King finds itself in hot water over its kitchen ad

An ad and tweet saying “Women belong in the kitchen” to highlight a scholarship program for female team members generated a reaction, but not the one it wanted.
BK Women in the kitchen
Photo courtesy of Burger King

An effort by Burger King to highlight the lack of women in head chef positions and promote a new scholarship program for the chain’s female workforce, did not quite have the reaction the company’s marketing team intended.

The controversy started with a full-page newspaper ad the company took out on Monday. It featured the phrase, “Women belong in the kitchen” in large, bold letters in the chain’s unique type font. 

It’s only underneath in much smaller letters when the company says, “If they want to, of course,” before going on to describe the lack of women in head chef positions in the world’s restaurants. 

The company highlighted the issue as part of International Women’s Day, and used it to announced a scholarship program, called “Burger King H.E.R. (Helping Equalize Restaurants) Scholarship, which will go to female employees who want to pursue a culinary degree.

Meanwhile, the company’s U.K. division tweeted out just the headline before following it up with details in a subsequent thread.

The tweet came under fire from people who felt that Burger King was using a hurtful phrase as “clickbait” to get attention.

But Burger King took up its own defense, noting that the purpose of the initial tweet was to call out issues with the number of women in top positions in restaurants. The company noted that women occupy just 7% of head chef positions in restaurants.

Its scholarship program, from the Burger King Foundation Scholars Program, has awarded $3 million in scholarships to team members, and the H.E.R. Scholarship will help employees pursuing a degree in culinary arts.

By later on Monday, however, Burger King acknowledged that the tweet could have been done differently.

“We are committed to helping women break through a male-dominated culinary culture in the world’s fine-dining restaurants, and sometimes that requires drawing attention to the problem we’re trying to help fix,” the company said. “Our tweet in the U.K. today was designed to draw attention to the fact that only a small percentage of chefs and head chefs are women. It was our mistake to not include the full explanation in our initial tweet and have adjusted our activity moving forward because we’re sure that when people read the entirety of our commitment, they will share our belief in this important opportunity.”

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Steak and Ale comes back from the dead, 16 years later

The Bottom Line: Paul Mangiamele has vowed to bring the venerable casual-dining chain back for more than a decade. He finally fulfilled that promise. Here’s a look inside.

Consumer Trends

Fast food has lost its reputation as a cheap meal

Years of price hikes are driving consumers to grocery stores and even full-service restaurants, which are now viewed by some as a better deal.


Here’s what an activist investor could push Starbucks to do

The Bottom Line: With the coffee shop chain reportedly talking with an activist investor, here’s a look at some of the potential changes they might demand.


More from our partners