What is in this article?:
- Subway leads ranking of best-perceived restaurant brands
- Chick-fil-A, Papa John's draw public ire
- Taco Bell, Little Caesars improve perceptions
Due to public backlash to company actions, brands like Chick-fil-A and Papa John’s Pizza, which held top spots in 2011, dropped out of the top five in 2012.
Chick-fil-A, Papa John's draw public ire
Yet Chick-fil-A and Papa John’s experienced annual declines in their buzz scores in 2012 as widespread backlash resulted from separate incidents in which their leaders made unpopular comments.
Chick-fil-A president and chief operating officer Dan Cathy set off a social-media firestorm when he gave an interview on July 2 to the Baptist Press and said the brand was “guilty as charged” in supporting a traditional view of “biblical marriage,” meaning only between a man and a woman. Advocates for same-sex marriage advocated a boycott of Chick-fil-A, which prompted a counter-protest of supporters to hold a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” on Aug. 1, which set a single-day sales record for the chain.
Marzilli noted that while Chick-fil-A’s annual buzz score fell out of the top five in 2012, the fact that the brand’s sales held up indicates that the negative perceptions driving Chick-fil-A’s buzz score slide came mostly from people who probably already knew about the brand’s stance against same-sex marriage and did not eat there much.
“What’s tricky is that among the general population, it sticks with people for quite a while, but for Chick-fil-A’s business prospects, it’s a more nuanced story,” Marzilli said. “A lot of people who were upset weren’t already customers or may have been disinclined to do business with Chick-fil-A.”
Papa John’s, on the other hand, had a bad November, when founder and chief executive John Schnatter’s post-Election Day comments to a college in Florida were picked up nationally because they included one section in which Schnatter suggested franchisees likely would make many employees part-time staff to avoid covering them under mandates in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. A week later, a U.S. District Court judge certified a class-action lawsuit against Papa John’s alleging the brand sent half a million unsolicited text messages.
“Papa John’s scores were hurt right around the election and the immediate aftermath, and the class-action lawsuit happened in the middle of that,” Marzilli said. “Those events definitely impacted the brand, not to the extremes of Chick-fil-A’s [perception hit], but enough to dislodge Papa John’s from the top five.”