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Papa John's to share sales with pizza contest winner

LOUISVILLE, Ky. Papa John’s Pizza said it will share up to $10,000 in sales with whoever creates and names the next specialty combination of toppings adopted for use by the nation’s third largest pizza chain.

The Papa’s Specialty Pizza Challenge running through June 14 asks customers to devise the next addition to the Louisville-based chain’s specialty pizza line, which now includes such items as Tuscan Six Cheese, BBQ Chicken and Bacon and Spinach Alfredo. Entries must be submitted at the Papa John’s page at

Chain founder John Schnatter and his “team of experts” will select 10 semifinal recipes for testing and tasting at Papa John’s corporate headquarters, Papa John’s International Inc. said. Schnatter will ultimately narrow the field to three recipes before the resulting pies are pitted against each other in a sales competition at the chain’s more than 2,780 U.S. restaurants between Aug. 2 and Aug. 29, the results of which will determine the winner.

According to the chain’s announcement about the contest, the Specialty Pizza Challenge winner will receive pizza for life from Papa John’s, a chance to appear in a “Papa’s in the House” TV commercial, and a “slice of the sales in return for the top recipe.” Tish Muldoon, senior director of corporate communications, said that the ‘slice’ of sales to be shared will be based on an unspecified percentage of sales over a set period of time to be determined after a winner is selected up to a total payout of $10,000.

“We've had fantastic consumer response today -- already over 700 entries,” Muldoon said Monday, the first day of the contest.

“We hear every day from customers who have a favorite combination of ingredients and there is usually a story behind it,” said Andrew Varga, chief marketing officer for Papa John’s “Our customers know that better ingredients make a better pizza. Now they have the opportunity to put their creativity on display for the right to have their pizza offered alongside ‘The Works’ and ‘The Meats and also to claim a slice of the sales of that pizza as well.”

Along with a name and list of ingredients they like to combine, challenge entrants must also submit an essay of 250 words or fewer about what makes their combination special. Papa John’s said the judging criteria throughout the competition will include “overall appeal,” “taste of the final product,” “creativity of name,” and “interest in the pizza’s story.”

To help the three finalists win sales for their respective pies during the August competition in Papa John’s stores, the chain said it would provide each with $1,000 to use for marketing.

The offer by a restaurant chain to share sales of a new product with an individual contest winner, such as the one from Papa John’s, is rare, if not unique, though some chains, including The Cheesecake Factory, have offered a split of contest-related sales to charities. Last summer, The Cheesecake Factory as part of a recipe submission contest added to its menu “Stefanie’s Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake” from baker Stefanie Gaxiola and agreed to share 25 cents from the sale of each slice to the nonprofit Feeding America program.

For the fiscal year ended Dec. 27, Papa John’s International reported flat same-store sales for its namesake chain’s U.S. system.

Contact Alan Liddle at [email protected].

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