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Execs’ Anti-Obama Rants Hurt Restaurant Brands

Papa John's CEO Several men who work as managers and CEOs of chain restaurants don’t much care for President Obama’s signature health insurance law—and they haven’t been shy about letting everyone know it via their respective media megaphones.

Their outrage may have something to do with the fact that chain restaurants, despite employing millions of Americans, very often do not provide health insurance for their workers. While these men have every right to voice their outrage, a recent YouGov BrandIndex report implies that their opinions may be hurting their brands.

Examples from the past month:

  • An owner of several Applebee’s branches claimed that “…we won’t build more restaurants. We won’t hire more people” due to the additional costs of insuring employees via “Obamacare.”
  • A south Florida man who runs several Denny’s and Dairy Queen locations discussed his plans to add a 5% surcharge to all orders in order to cover the anticipated cost of the legislation, telling customers that “if they really feel so inclined, they can reduce the amount of tip they give to the server, who is the primary beneficiary of Obamacare.”
  • After reports led some to believe that Obamacare would force him to close stores, fire workers and raise prices, Papa John’s CEO (and major Mitt Romney fundraiser) John Schnatter recently took to The Huffington Post to clarify his statements on the matter, writing that everybody just needs to calm down because all of his restaurants plan to “honor the law.”

There’s little doubt that these statements paint the men who made them as jackasses, yet the YouGov brand report hints that the damage runs deeper: these execs’ anti-Obamacare rants have led the public to lose respect for their brands.

After polling “recent casual food diners”, YouGov researchers concluded that impressions of the Papa John’s, Denny’s and Applebee’s brands had fallen considerably since the representatives made these statements. Denny’s quickly recovered and ended up with some slight gains in terms of reputation, but YouGov researchers attribute that bump to the company CEO’s decision to publicly shoot down Metz’s surcharge statements.

The Papa John’s team quickly struck back, emailing media outlets to let them know that the YouGov findings contradict other studies and that the pizza chain is doing just fine, thanks.

What do we think? Is there something to the YouGov report, or will the public quickly forget the fact that these men voiced their opinions? Should CEOs and managers (who are brand representatives whether they like it or not) just keep their politics to themselves in the interests of their businesses, or should they follow the Chick-Fil-A model and stick to their guns?

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