What is in this article?:
- Health care backlash blemishes restaurants' reputations
- Overcoming controversy
Some consumers were put off by restaurant brands' negative response to "Obamacare," according to a new report from YouGov BrandIndex.
Restaurant company leaders were proactive in their responses to the outcry from consumers, from Mike Archer of Applebee’s and John Miller of Denny’s distancing themselves from their franchisees’ statements or Schnatter clarifying Papa John’s positions with op-eds in the Huffington Post and the Louisville Courier-Journal.
In his response, Schnatter noted that Papa John’s would comply with the Affordable Care Act, would not cut jobs or hours in its corporate stores, and in fact would open hundreds of stores over the next few years. He added that corporate employees have had their insurance covered since the company was founded in 1984.
Schnatter also pointed out several things he said from the transcript of his speech that was quoted in previous stories that that did not fit the anti-Obamacare narrative that had circulated in the media.
“The good news is 100 percent of the population is going to get health insurance,” Schnatter said in that speech. “I’m cool with that. … This way I get to provide health insurance, and I’m not at a competitive disadvantage. Our competitors are going to have to do the same thing.”
Yet blogs and television comedians ripped Papa John’s as well as companies like Jimmy John’s and Darden Restaurants for also publicly opposing the health care mandate and disclosing plans to cut employees’ hours. Customers who opposed the president’s re-election and the Affordable Care Act organized a “Papa John’s Appreciation Day” Nov. 16 to encourage conservatives to support the chain, using an “#IStandWithPapaJohns” hash tag on Twitter.
Elsewhere, a Detroit chapter of the National Action Network led a boycott movement of Detroit-area Denny’s restaurants, even though Metz did not operate any locations in Michigan.
Marzilli of BrandIndex said the competing rhetoric for and against brands speaking up about the Affordable Care Act’s consequences likely would dissipate in time, provided brands avoid stoking additional controversy.
He noted that buzz scores are the most volatile measure BrandIndex tracks and tend to rise and fall with positive or negative brand news. While buzz scores trended down for Papa John’s, Applebee’s and Denny’s after criticisms of the Affordable Care Act went public, the chains’ overall brand health index scores — which incorporate buzz scores and measures for quality, value and other metrics — have started to level off and slowly rise to pre-election levels.
“It’s an indication that, while the media cycle might have a little more life left in it, the underlying metrics of brand health are bouncing back,” Marzilli said. “There are conversations now about what Obamacare means for business, which has an impact on what people hear and how they perceive these brands. I expect reactions to the discussion to be short, but as brands take further action down the road, there may be another consumer reaction.”