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Papa John's & Obamacare: Better Ingredients. Better Pizza. Better Get Another Job.
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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Back in August, "Papa" John Schnatter became well known for much more than hawking meh pizza across the country. He did a little of that new math and came up with an algebraic formula that illustrated the cost of providing all of his full-time, uninsured employees came out to approximately 14 cents for every large pizza. As the article from ABCNews.com shares, "That's less than adding an extra topping and a third the price of an extra pepperoncini. If you want that piping hot pie delivered, the $2 delivery fee will cost you 14 times as much as that health insurance price hike."

To wit, Schnatter caught himself in the middle of a food fight with a hefty side order of expletives. So, he took to the airwaves, thinking his sage thoughts would help restore the calm to the pizza lovers in 'Merica. 

"We're not supportive of Obamacare, like most businesses in our industry," Schnatter said on a conference call with shareholders last week, as reported by Politico. "If Obamacare is in fact not repealed, we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders' best interests."

So, about that? It didn't work. At least in terms of public perception. The profits, on the other hand, went up 25%. Franchise owners were happy, although their employees would rather get their fingers flattened in a pizza dough roller than have to go the doctor and pay for a bill out of their tip jar. Schnatter has enjoyed that profit because he will be seen all over Super Bowl XLVII trying to give away two million pizzas. Granted, none of them come with that extra pepperoncini, but you get the idea. 

Oh, yes; this is a company whose 2011 annual report read $1.22 billion. So, 14 cents a pizza is obviously much ado about something, right? Fast forward a few months and we have Schnatter's crisis communications company, Sitrick & Co. (affectionately known as "the flack you want when you're under attack"...no kidding), according to this story from Politico

Sitrick told POLITICO that his firm has been in contact with a few dozen bloggers — but no major publications — about their posts on the subject and that most have either corrected the items or removed them entirely once the “mischaracterized” quotes are brought to their attention.

He and his associates point bloggers to Schnatter’s November 2012 op-ed in The Huffington Post, where Big Papa wrote that he “never said” hours, jobs, or stores would be cut as a result of Obamacare. So, to be clear, here is what he really said from that op-ed. See if you notice the huge discrepancy: 

“Our best estimate is that the Obamacare will cost 11 to 14 cents per pizza, or 15 to 20 cents per order from a corporate basis...If Obamacare is in fact not repealed, we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders' best interests.”

Reads like, "A stupid fake pepper that has no place on a pizza is much more important than the high school kid or recently laid-off hourly worker who just put said pepperoncini on the pie." Or some such. To wit, Sitrick sees babble like that and believes it is "completely distorting" what his client originally said, which is why he is on the hunt for ne'er-do-well bloggers. Compliment accepted. 

Listen, I'm certain that when Schnatter piped off about the Affordable Care Act, he wasn't planning on bringing his hallowed billon-dollar brand into the middle of a political ess-storm...but he did. Is it worth lighting the torches and raising the pitchforks against all bloggers who dare talk about Schnatter and his political persuasions? Does this effort to rid the Web of distorted statements really help his company's image? 

Is all of this ballyhoo over a few pennies of pie or for some workers to have insurance? Who knows. Are all of his contributions to building football stadiums and clothing kids dwarfed in the shadows of Sitrick's onslaught of bloggers? Again, who knows. Finally, will all this drama make folks think twice about buying 'better ingredients and better pizza'? I know. 

At least, that's my two cents. (I wonder if any of his employees can use them.)


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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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