Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Opinion: Papa John's Should Soften Obamacare Criticism

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Papa John's

    After President Obama was re-elected last month, owners of businesses that depend on low wages for their profit margins howled that Obama’s health care plan was going to kill their bottom lines.

    Most prominent was John Schnatter, owner of Papa John’s Pizza, who claimed Obamacare will add 10 to 14 cents to the cost of a pie, and that he wouldn’t blame franchisees for cutting employees’ hours below the 30 a week required for health care coverage.

    A Denny’s owner in Florida said he would have to add a 5 percent surcharge to all meals to cover the cost of insuring his cooks, busboys and wait staff. In New York, an Applebee’s owner threatened a hiring freeze.Those statements were renounced by the corporate offices of those restaurants. But Schnatter IS the corporate office of Papa John’s.
    Forbes mocked him as a “centi-millionaire” and calculated that Obamacare would only cost an extra “3.4 to 4.6 cents a pie.” Others pointed out that Schnatter was able to afford a private golf course and a moat around his mansion.
    The pizza-eating masses are not enamored with Schnatter’s politics, either. According to a survey by YouGov BrandIndex, which measures public perceptions of well-known companies, Papa John’s approval ratings have declined sharply, not only because of Schnatter’s Obamacare remarks, but because of a lawsuit for spamming customers with text messages.
    Papa John’s Buzz score high point for the month came on Election Day – November 6th – with a score of 32. Eight days later, the score had dropped 10 points down to 22, when the spam text lawsuit was unveiled. A few days later, Papa John’s dropped below Pizza Hut’s score and is presently at 4.
    The reason I know this is a real problem? Yesterday, I got an e-mail from a friend who’ll be hosting a Diplomacy game this weekend. Since Diplomacy games go on all afternoon, we usually take a break after a few hours and order pizza. When we order pizza, it’s usually from Papa John’s. Not this Sunday. Here’s what my friend, a middle-aged white guy from Downers Grove who has never discussed politics with me before, had to say about our lunch options:
    “We’ll…order pizza around 2pm and eat when it arrives. (We will no longer be ordering from Papa John’s, as John Schattner is an outspoken opponent of the Affordable Care Act and its ramifications for his company and he can kiss my a**.)”
    Pineapple goes well with pizza. Spinach goes well with pizza. So do peppers, tomatoes and sausage. But politics doesn’t. The average American eats 23 pounds of pizza a year. Everyone eats pizza. And when you’re trying to sell a product to everyone, it’s not smart to alienate the 51 percent who voted for a winning presidential candidate.

     

    This month, Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President will be available on Kindle for $9.99. Tracing Obama’s career in Chicago from his arrival as a community organizer to his election to the U.S. Senate, Young Mr. Obama tells the story of how a callow, presumptuous young man became a master politician, and of why only Chicago could have produced our first black president.