The Frisch’s Pepsi Controversy

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After fifty years Frisch’s is breaking from its traditional offering of Coke products and making the switch to Pepsi (much to the excitement of Mountain Dew drinkers).  As might be expected, however, the news has Cincinnati in an uproar.

Frischs’ Facebook page is literally hundreds of negative comments plastered under pictures of pies, sandwiches and entrees- anywhere there is space. These are all written by people who are dissatisfied enough with the change that they claim they will not return to the restaurant. Some have even stated that  the food Frisch’s offers will not taste right with Pepsi products. The flavorings won’t work well with the already sweet-tasting base Pepsi flavor. Others believe that changing the traditions that have been passed down for generations is sacrilegious.

Cincinnati is a city that is steeped in tradition. Ask anyone about Red’s opening day and you are bound to find those that believe it should be a recognized holiday. We also have our Bengals, fireworks, ice cream, chili and a deep loyalty for our high schools. With this is mind, it is no surprise that the city is not buying the financial aspect that Pepsi made Frisch’s a much better contract offer.

We should put this in perspective though. Frisch’s did everything right. They facilitated their Toledo market as the guinea pigs for the changeover. They blind taste tested their syrups using Pepsi with the majority of people not realized there was a difference. They choose the soda brand that would grant them the highest profit margin on soft drinks, which is the quickest and easiest way for any food service industry business to make money. Unfortunately that isn’t enough to please many residents of the Queen City.

Product branding and marketing likely have a place in this controversy as well. Coke spends almost twice the amount Pepsi does a year on advertising and although PepsiCo as a company has a much higher revenue margin, based on soft drinks alone according to most consumers, Coke is the clear choice.  This was also demonstrated in a taste test study.  The study showed that when the subjects knew they were drinking Coke, they preferred it 75% percent to Pepsi at 25%.  When the test subjects were given the beverages blindly, their preference changed and the ratio was split 50/50.

People do not typically react well to change and there is always a likelihood of backlash. Historically, however, they adapt in spite of themselves. There are other places in the Cincinnati that will still serve Coke with a burger that tastes similar. At issues is the fact it’s not going to be the restaurant people have been going to since they were kids.

Realistically though, Frisch’s food is not know for its complex flavors or variety of menu items. The average Frisch’s patron would not be able to differentiate most of the items on Frisch’s menu from what can be bought at a grocery store and prepared at home. The real problem is opinions are hard hard to change- even over soft drink selections.

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