A couple of weeks after the brouhaha over Chick-fil-A's CEO's comments about same-sex marriage prompted a national debate reflected in social media, another fast-food chain, Papa John's, has dipped its toe in the red state/blue state divide.
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During a conference call with analysts last week, Papa John's CEO John Schnatter (pictured) said that Obamacare would raise the price of a pizza somewhere between $0.11 to $0.14. "We're not supportive of Obamacare, like most businesses in our industry," Schnatter said, according to Politico. "But our business model and unit economics are about as ideal as you can get for a food company to absorb Obamacare...If Obamacare is in fact not repealed, we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders' best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."
Reports of Schnatter's comments led to the now-predictable outcry on Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter, while some are calling for a boycott, others took the opportunity to trash the chain. "Ok then, raise the price of your garbage pizza," tweeted Bob del Grosso. "Anything that creates an economic disincentive to buy Papa John's 'pizza' is a good thing. Yay Obamacare!" tweeted another critic, author Baratunde Thurston. Meanwhile, as was the case with Chick-fil-A, conservative-leaning Twitter users showed their support. For instance, the Young America Foundation called Schnatter's comments "delicious free speech."
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On average, response to the brand on social media has been negative, according to NetBase, an analytics firm. NetBase looked at social media discussion about Papa John's over the past week and found it drifted into negative territory in the first week of August. On July 29, talk about the brand was 77% positive and 23% negative, but by Aug. 5, the discussion was 48% positive and 52% negative, according to the researcher.
Meanwhile, another researcher, YouGov's BrandIndex, found Papa John's Buzz Score -- which is calculated by averaging negative and positive feedback, fell from a stellar 100 on Aug. 1 (meaning all consumers interviewed online at the time had reported they'd only heard positive things about the brand) to a current 49.
For comparison's sake, here's a chart from YouGov showing Chick-fil-A's Buzz Score before and after company President Dan Cathy's comments about same-sex marriage were picked up by the mainstream media.
As Chick-fil-A did, Papa John's has attempted to counter the negative buzz via a Facebook post. The company posted a message on Wednesday attempting to clarify its stance on the issue:
There's been a lot of buzz about some comments made recently by our founder regarding the potential impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on our business. We certainly understand the importance of healthcare to our customers, our employees, small business owners and their employees.
"As a publicly traded company, we were responding to a direct question from an analyst on our quarterly financial conference call about the anticipated costs of complying with the Act. When certain business costs increase – such as fuel, ingredients or employee healthcare – there is naturally an impact to the price of products and services.
The vast majority of Papa John's restaurants are owned by small business people, each of whom will be impacted in different ways by costs associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Papa John’s remains fully committed to providing our customers with better ingredients and better pizza at the best value."
So far, the post has gotten more than 900 likes and more than 1,300 comments, many of them negative.
What do you think? Do you like to keep your pizza and politics separate?
This story originally published on Mashable here.