Herman Cain Prospered as Big Cheese of Godfather’s Pizza
NEW YORK—Herman Cain has every right to feel uncomfortable.
According to news reports based on anonymous sources, the GOP presidential frontrunner is suspected of unspecified acts of sexual-harassment while running the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. Cains first accuser considered coming forward, but now says she will stay in the shadows. Like a hit-and-run driver, she wounded Cain and now speeds off into the night.
What, if anything, transpired between Cain and his associates remains as unclear as this episodes ultimate impact on Cains upstart, surprisingly successful, and for many refreshing candidacy.
Too bad this media noreaster overwhelmed two recent stories on a sunnier aspect of Cain’s past: his tenure as CEO of Godfathers Pizza. If these reports are accurate, Cain is a diligent, cerebral, tough-but-fair executive who turned a failing and flabby organization into a fit, effective enterprise. Imagine if this tested manager could do likewise with Americas paunchy, profligate, pathetic federal government.
First, between 1983 and 1985, Cain revitalized Burger Kings 450-store Philadelphia region. He moved it from a laggard to a leader among the companys 12 geographic territories.
My career spans 38 years, and Ive worked for 26 different managers, said Frank Taylor, Cains former regional controller at Burger King. Herman was far and away the best Ive worked for in terms of getting a team together, sharing a vision, and accomplishing the goals. And nothing diverted him.
Pillsbury brass then tapped Cain to resuscitate Godfathers Pizza. They gave him one year. Godfathers had one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel, Cain has said. According to Neal St. Anthonys article in the October 30 Minneapolis Star-Tribune, hardly a Right-wing rag, Godfathers was waylaid by a tired menu, demoralized employees, and lousy results.
Im Herman Cain and this aint no April Fools joke, he told Godfathers employees upon arrival on April 1, 1986. We are not dead. Our objective is to prove to Pillsbury and everybody else that we will survive.
Cain got very busy indeed. He worked long hours, gave frequent pep talks, canvassed employees individually for their ideas, and even cooked pizzas himself both in Godfathers test kitchen and among its roughly 600 retail locations.
Cain energized his headquarters staff with after-work sing-alongs and expected top supervisors to communicate on a first-name basis with all of their subordinates. Cain tested them on this skill. He also pressed $50 bills into the palms of employees whose customer service or pizza-making prowess impressed him as he visited Godfathers outlets.
Herman was very quantitative and analytical, former Pillsbury executive George Mileusnic recalled in the Star-Tribune, but he demanded that everybody be engaged, and every employee must be appreciated and respected.
Hes very, very inspiring, Godfathers marketing director Charles Henderson told Brady Dennis in the October 24 Washington Post. The guy can convince you to run through a wall.
By 1987, Godfathers was on a roll. It generated an operating profit, and gained market share against Dominos and Pizza Hut. According to the Post, Cain closed failing stores and laid off their workers. However, average sales and profit margins grew at surviving restaurants. One year later, Cain arranged for his team to buy the chain from Pillsbury for an undisclosed sum. Once left for dead, Godfathers thrives even today.
Rather than discuss any of this, however, the campaign press corps will hound Cain about what, if anything, he may have said or done to one or more people whose names and faces remain modern mysteries.
The news medias Rottweiler-like focus on Cain and these harassment allegations contrasts perfectly with the feline laziness it displayed when the very non-anonymous Juanita Broaddrick credibly accused then-President Bill Clinton not of harassment but of rape while governor of Arkansas. Her plausible charges were trivialized and forgotten.
Poor Herman Cain. If he were a Democrat, his biggest headache today would be how to survive the loud snores of the liberal press.