CEO Schnatter’s Obamacare Gripe Haunting Papa John’s?

Wednesday, 05 Dec 2012 05:23 PM

By Dale Eisinger

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Public opinion of Papa John’s, the popular pizza chain, took a nose dive following post-election day comments made by pizza-slinging CEO John Schnatter, who said he would pass the costs of Obamacare on to employees and customers by reducing worker hours and increasing prices.

The results of a recent survey of casual restaurant diners apparently shows they are still unhappy with Schnatter’s sentiments.

The survey taken last month and released Nov. 30 by BrandIndex determined that on a rating scale that put Papa John’s at a 32 on election day, the pizza chain had dropped to a 4 by the end of November.

BrandIndex is a channel of website YouGov that conducts thousands of surveys daily on public perception of brands among consumers.

BrandIndex speculates the Papa John’s drop may have also been precipitated by a $250 million class-action spam lawsuit filed against the pizza chain, alleging the company sent hundreds of thousands of unauthorized promotional text messages to costumers after they ordered pizza using cell phones.

Papa John’s responded quickly in a statement written by Chief Marketing Officer Andrew Varga.

“BrandIndex polls a sample of consumers each day on many aspects of a brand’s reputation. The publicized report failed to mention that during the same time period that YouGov claimed Papa John’s had a significant drop in brand favorability, their general population study showed significant increases in such key criteria as reputation, quality, value and whether consumers would recommend the brand to a friend,” read Varga’s Tuesday statement. “In fact, from Nov. 6 through Nov. 30, Papa John’s overall index number improved almost five points and was at or near recent highs and four of the five measures that make up the index also showed nice improvement.”

So, apparently weeks later, Schnatter’s comments were still impacting the perception of Papa John’s, the nation’s third-largest pizza chain. Even a Nov. 20 Huffington Post op-ed penned by the outspoken CEO, in which he claimed his words were taken out of context, didn’t seem to help the public’s view of the company.

The correlation with the anti-Obamacare comments comes from similar drop in consumer perception of the Denny’s and Applebees chains, following similar comments made by CEOs of those companies.

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