Experienced restaurateurs know it’s nearly impossible to be all things to all people. But operators were reminded this week of the flip side: Becoming the darling of a particular group means you risk alienating the mainstream. Just ask Papa John’s, which is hoping to shirk the love it’s suddenly drawn from neo-Nazis.
The pizza chain was hardly alone in winning a dubious cult following. Here’s a look at the situations where a risky stance drew simultaneous hurrahs and hisses.
Orders Papa John’s would prefer Pizza Hut get
Enamored customers are a valuable commodity, but Papa John’s is telling one group of fans to buzz off. The chain very loudly declared this week that it does not want the skinhead community to enjoy its pizzas, much less embrace them as the official pies of the so-called alt-right.
That designation was foisted on the brand by a pro-fascist publication, The Daily Stormer. The editorial endorsement was accompanied by a photo depicting a pie adorned with a swastika made of pepperoni.
“We condemn racism in all forms and any and all hate groups that support it,” Papa John’s said in a statement presented to media. “We do not want these individuals or groups to buy our pizza.”
The situation grew out of a mini hullabaloo that Papa John’s conjured itself. Last week, management publicly blasted the NFL for not resolving the big-league controversy over players kneeling during pregame airings of the national anthem. “This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago,” said CEO John Schnatter.
Instead, viewership of NFL games has tanked, undercutting the value of Papa John’s sponsorship of the league and severely hammering down pizza sales, Schnatter contended. “NFL leadership has hurt Papa John's shareholders,” he commented.
Bathroom backfire I
A popular restaurant in Allen, Texas, found itself in a firestorm of controversy after a Dallas newspaper discovered the unusual way the men's and women’s restrooms were designated.
For months, Dodie’s Place Cajun Bar & Grill had used photos of Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, to indicate which bathroom was intended for which gender. A picture of Bruce Jenner in the men’s 1976 Olympics uniform, long before she’d revealed her transgender identity, signals the gents’ facility. A shot of Caitlyn Jenner, as she’s now known, adorns the door to the ladies’ room.
Dodie’s wasn’t abashed about what it regarded as a clever, humorous alternative to just using “Men’s” and “Women’s” signs. The restaurant even called attention to the designations on its Facebook page.
But not everyone saw the humor after learning of the situation from a tweet by a Dallas Morning News reporter. Some people said they were offended and incensed by what they regarded as insensitivity to the transgender community.
Yet others came to Dodie’s defense, saying it was just an innocent joke.
The photos remain in place.
Bathroom backfire II
Trying to find humor in abusive behavior is not the smartest of moves, but some yucksters can’t resist the stab at a laugh. Look at Homeslice Pizza, which somehow thought a bathroom sign showing a man taking liberties with a woman would just slay customers.
The southwestern Colorado restaurant has since taken down the controversial placard, which showed the universal symbol for a man, the familiar silhouetted stick figure, reaching under the skirt of the universal designation for a woman. The sign indicated which restroom was intended for women. The men’s room was designated with the conventional symbol for a man.
The signs had been posted for four years. But with the alleged sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein and John Besh generating headlines, negative public reaction spiked in recent weeks, prompting Homeslice to take down the placards.
The restaurant’s proprietors have maintained throughout the controversy that the sign was intended as a joke, not as a shrug over sexual harassment.
Children are off the menu
A neighborhood pizza joint figured it would help adult customers decompress by eliminating an obvious source of annoyance: children running amok. But nothing, it seems, infuriates parents more than being told their little ones aren’t welcome.
Hampton Station in Tampa, Fla., learned the hard way that any policy on children is a dicey one. In its instance, proprietor Troy Taylor decided to ban the good along with the little terrors. He posted a sign on the front door that all but barked, “No Children.”
Predictably, parents took considerable umbrage at being told their little angels were no longer welcome. Taylor explained to the local media that he felt the decision had been forced upon him by the failure of moms and dads to curb the banshee behavior of their kids. But he apparently learned that every ill-behaved child is the offspring of someone else, not the persons objecting to such a policy.
Patrons publicly posed the question of whether a ban on youngsters (there’s no posted age bracket) is discriminatory. But as legal sages noted in observing the controversy, children are not guaranteed equal treatment under the law.