It started a few months back when the owner of Chick-fil-A expressed some personal opinions regarding the definition of marriage. The company's chief executive, Dan Cathy, believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman. A group of Gay Rights supporters suggested a boycott of all Chick-fil-A restaurants. An equally strong group of traditional marriage supporters organized an "appreciation day" where traditional marriage believers would eat at the chicken restaurant to show support.
Chick-fil-A is now an official Red Food.
The NYC soda ban (see my blog) puts supporters of Mayor Bloomberg's attempt to limit soda size as true Blue Fooders.
Shortly before the election, John Schnatter, the CEO of Papa John's Pizza, said that President Obama's re-election will cause him to lay off workers and raise prices. Red Food.
Organic/sustainable foods lean Blue.
The founder of Carl's Jr. supported a proposition to fire gay teachers and earned his hamburgers the nickname, bigot burgers. The Waffle House used centralized corporate funds to become a major supporter of Karl Rove's group, American Crossroads. White Castle likes to support the seriously conservative Congressional Leadership Fund Super PAC.
Vote with Your Fork is a popular Blue Food bumper sticker.
The ultimate political play may be the "Right Wing Tavern" in Woodstock, Ga.
The traditional adage is, keep peace in the family; do not bring politics to the dinner table. As a nation, we are mingling politics and bread more often and in a very public way. What's a pizza operator to do? Entering politics will alienate some customers and attract others. With a challenged economy, no restaurant operator can afford to lose sales to support a political party. But what of personal conviction and what about free speech?
Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A, never intended for his personal beliefs to become public, but they did. Papa John's did intend to sway votes and saw its stock price tumble. Do pizza operators have the right to say what they believe? The answer is, of course they do. Blue or Red, Left or Right, pizza operators are people and voters.
In a country increasingly divided across party politics, asking customers to vote with their fork is a risky proposition. Running a business today is difficult enough without drawing negative criticism. Yelp, Facebook and Urbanspoon postings can be vicious and hard to counter. Best to keep your opinions close to the vest, silence is golden, but that is another fairy tale.
Ed Zimmerman is a pizza industry veteran and President of The Food Connector. His almost four decades of foodservice experience includes food manufacturing and distribution leadership, food industry technology, marketing services and restaurant and grocery operations management.