The latest chapter in the Denny's-Obamacare saga: Denny's doesn't hate Obamacare like all those other allegedly conservative fast-food restaurants do — at least not the whole chain. A very public letter from the restaurant's chief today explains that the guy who everyone thought spoke for the company... is actually just a local chain owner who has been very publicly reprimanded. "We recognize his right to speak on issues, but registered our disappointment that his comments have been interpreted as the company’s position," Denny's Chief Executive John Miller said in an e-mail to The Huffington Post. Miller is hoping that e-mail gets circulated enough that he can undo some of the damage done by the franchisee in question, John Metz.
Metz, who owns 40 restaurants, has been making the rounds telling people he's tacking on a 5-percent surcharge to each of his customers' Denny's bills, and asked them to reduce tips to their servers — all because of the supposed effects of Obamacare. Metz's rant has led to a lumping-in of Denny's alongisde Papa John's pizza and Applebee's in a much-discussed kind of conservative cabal of restaurant chains allegedly unhappy with Obama's re-election — both Papa John's and Applebees's CEOs have announced that they might cut jobs because they'll have to pay more when Obamacare goes into effect.
For Miller to have to step in on behalf of Denny's is an indication that the anti-Obamacare food narrative had set in, with little distinction between the company and rogue store policy. What didn't help were tweets like these, from prominent conservatives lumping all Denny's together and fear-mongering:
Denny's to add a 5% "Obamacare surcharge". Obama said if you like your insurance, you can keep it. Didn't mention your breakfast. #tcot— Fred Thompson (@fredthompson) November 20, 2012
And though HuffPo has stories of specific Denny's restaurants facing sales declines because of Metz, there's still no definitive data of an overall decline at the company (yet). "Good for the CEO," writes Slate's economics/business blogger Matt Yglesias. "Whining about the fact that your servers now have health insurance is neither here nor there in terms of the value proposition on offer, and is only going to serve to alienate people by making you look like an asshole," he added. HuffPo notes that a "spokeswoman for Metz said he will not conduct more interviews."