Papa John’s, Denny’s, Applebees brands suffer after Obamacare criticism

Though it has many faults, one great aspect of the free market – the actual free market and not what we have on Wall Street – is that customers have choices. Since the Obama re-election victory in November, a few CEOs and business executives couldn’t accept that they lost, and chose instead to bash President Obama and Obamacare.

It was especially strange to hear one CEO, Papa John’s’ John Schnatter, complain about the supposedly high costs of Obamacare, while he somehow found the money to build a moat around his mansion and a personal golf course. He’s also the same CEO who is facing a $250 million class action lawsuit for sending text messages to customers.

Then there was the local Denny’s franchisee who came up with the bright idea to tack on a 5% surcharge to every check to supposedly pay for Obamacare.

Or Applebee’s NY franchisee who claimed Obamacare may force him to institute a hiring freeze.

The result of the public tantrums? Well, let’s just say this is why smart CEOs stay out of politics in public.  From YouGov BrandIndex:

doctor health care obamacare

“Doctor, it hurts when I lie.”
(Doctor via Shutterstock)

Papa John’s, Applebee’s, and Denny’s were measured with YouGov BrandIndex’s Buzz score, which asks respondents, “If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?” Results were filtered adults 18+ who have eaten at casual dining restaurants in the past month.Papa John’s Buzz score high point for the month came on Election Day – November 6th – with a score of 32. Eight days later, the score had dropped 10 points down to 22, when the spam text lawsuit was unveiled. A few days later, Papa John’s dropped below Pizza Hut’s score and is presently at 4.

Applebee’s had a 35 Buzz score on the eve of Election Day, when a few days later, Apple-Metro CEO Zane Tankel told Fox Business News he won’t build more restaurants or hire more people. By November 17th, Applebee’s score had fallen 20 points. As of this past Thursday, their score was 5.

After Denny’s franchisee John Metz’s Obamacare comments on November 17th, the chain’s buzz score dropped from 10 down to zero nine days later. However, they have since bounced back to 6, a higher score than both Papa John’s and Applebee’s.

And here’s their graph showing the brands plummeting:

Now shareholders can start comparing the cost of implementing Obamacare versus the cost of lost business due to ridiculously partisan public rants after a heated election.

What do these companies think of the free market now?


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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