Obamacare critic Olive Garden/Red Lobster reports 37% drop in profits

Whether there’s a connection between Olive Garden / Red Lobster parent company, Darden Restaurants, reporting bad numbers and their flip-flopping on Obamacare is hard to say.

Customers of those restaurants are certainly middle class people, most of whom know all too well how difficult and expensive healthcare can be, so it’s not unreasonable to think the earlier criticism of Obamacare had some negative impact.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Darden’s CEO was concerned about the bad publicity, but that he was making efforts to provide healthcare to at least some of their employees. Darden did eventually come around.

“Although our workforce historically has been heavily part-time, we have always had a significant number of full-time employees and they are integral to our success,” said Darden chairman and CEO Clarence Otis. “The data we have collected during our test around guest satisfaction and employee engagement has only reinforced this. As we think about healthcare reform, while many of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s rules and regulations have yet to be finalized, we are pleased we know enough at this point to make firm and hopefully reassuring commitments to our full-time employees.”

Was blaming Obamacare real, or just an excuse for missing the numbers? Again, it’s hard to say. Data shows that criticism of Obamacare by CEO’s has hurt the image of companies, though nobody can make a direct link to poor numbers, yet. The ongoing economic crisis could just as easily be responsible for bad performance. Many families still feel financially insecure, and going to restaurants is often an expense that gets cut.

Darden seemed to eventually be doing the right thing by exploring the process of adding healthcare for at least some employees. Was it too little, too late or was the damage already done? Whatever the answer, the public does seem to be in a bad mood lately with CEOs, former CEOs, rich people and companies who are bashing Obamacare, or at least, access to healthcare for employees.

The Huffington Post is suggesting the earlier Obamacare criticism is linked to the drop in sales, but I’m less convinced. The criticism may not have helped, but to blame the unfortunate public statements about Obamacare on such a huge revenue decrease, a 37% profit drop, sounds too easy.

It’s time for businesses to get on board with Obamacare, and quit causing self-inflicted wounds, or the image of self-inflicted wounds on their businesses. Maybe it means a few less dollars at the top, but is that really such a crisis to whine about?

An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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