Cain’s pizza history

If Herman Cain’s presidential candidacy has intrigued you, you might appreciate learning more about his business career by reading this short profile in Bloomberg Businessweek:

The new CEO initiated deep cuts to bring down expenses. He closed 20 percent of the company’s 640 restaurants and fired 300 to 400 people.

Spencer Wiggins, Godfather’s former director of human resources, says Cain had no choice but to shutter some locations. “A lot of people … had become franchisees when the chain first started who really had no restaurant experience. Everybody was looking to make a fast buck.” To reduce costs and increase margins, Cain eliminated less popular toppings, got rid of deep-dish pizzas, and pulled salad bars from restaurants. To lure new customers, he introduced 2-for-1 specials and guaranteed delivery times.

Wiggins said he and Cain would make unannounced visits to restaurants, including one in Seattle where the two of them offered to bus tables. “We took off our coats and worked on the make table, making pizzas,” Wiggins recalled. “He took people by surprise.”

Cain says that as President, he would take the same uncompromising, sweat-the-details approach to reviving the economy and cutting federal spending. Yet it’s not at all clear that Cain’s efforts made that much of a difference in Godfather’s fortunes. He says the company was losing $8 million a year when he took over and turned a profit of $4 million two years later. You’ll have to take his word for it. Cain, who declined to be interviewed, has not released details of the company’s performance under his leadership. Publicly available figures show Godfather’s sales fluctuated from about $225 million to about $275 million during his time there, sometimes rising, sometimes falling, never surging. Godfather’s didn’t go out of business; neither did it become a major combatant in the pizza wars, and Pillsbury sold Godfather’s to Cain and a group of investors in 1988.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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