Papa John's
On the move: Q2 restaurant exec changes

Ad campaign showcases the diverse faces of Papa John’s

New microsite takes spotlight off longtime spokesman John Schnatter

Papa John’s International, Inc., has launched a new ad campaign seeking to move beyond the controversial voice of founder John Schnatter, who has been in a legal and public-relations battle with corporate management since he resigned as chairman of the board in July.

The new campaign called “Voices of Papa John’s” features some of the 120,000 people who work in and operate the pizza delivery chain’s more than 5,000 locations worldwide.

The first video of the campaign, now available at the microsite stories.papajohns.com, is directed by Ramaa Mosley, a director and producer of, among other things, the 2013 film Girl Rising, which tells the stories of nine girls in developing countries overcoming hardships to obtain education.

The 60-second Papa John’s video features 24 franchisees and managers who volunteered to be in the ad, which starts with quick candid shots of some of the operators, followed by Alaura, a franchisee in Detroit, saying, “You’ve heard one voice of Papa John’s for a long time,” a clear reference to Schnatter, who had long been the company’s spokesman as well as founder and largest shareholder.

“It’s time you heard from all of us,” says Zafira, a local store marketing manager in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

The other performers talk about their community involvement and the pleasure they have in serving pizza to their customers.

“Pizza’s delicious, especially when you got the better ingredients,” says Marco, general manager of a location in Del City, Okla., in reference to Papa John’s longstanding slogan, “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.”

Other performers tell the audience that everyone is welcome at their restaurants and that from now on consumers will hear more of their voices, rather — presumably — than Schnatter’s. 

Schnatter resigned as board chairman in the wake of allegations, which he admitted, that he had used inappropriate, racially charged language in a conference call in May. That call was held in the aftermath of Schnatter’s resignation as CEO in January following controversy that resulted from his going off-script during a November earnings call and blaming declining sales on the National Football League’s failure to quell silent protests by football players during the National Anthem.

Papa John’s sales have continued to slide amid accusations that Schnatter is racist: Domestic same-store sales fell by 6.1 percent in the quarter ended July 1, and fell by an additional 10.5 percent in the 28 days that followed. 

The stock price has suffered, too. Shares peaked at $89.17 on Dec. 16, 2016 and have been below $47 since late July. 

Since stepping down, Schnatter has said that his resignation was a mistake and that his comments were taken out of context.

Management, meanwhile, led by his hand-picked successor, Steve Ritchie, who Schnatter has since disavowed and accused of incompetence, has moved to evict Schnatter — still the company’s largest shareholder, with about 30 percent of its shares, and a member of the board of directors — from the company’s Louisville, Ky., offices. 

The company also is attempting to revoke the founder’s agreement that allows Schnatter, among other things, to act as the chain’s spokesman.

Schnatter has sued the company to prevent those actions.

The 60-second video ends with Papa John’s logo changing to Papa Daniel’s, Papa Kiersten’s, Papa Nadeem’s and others.

The microsite said these new faces of the company would be appearing on the chain’s web site, social media channels and elsewhere.

“We are excited to highlight the many voices that speak for our company,” the site says. “Much like ‘Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.’, our people are the key ingredient to a better company. They are the people who own and operate our restaurants in your communities. They are your drivers, your store managers, the people making the food you serve to your family and friends. It’s time we tell their stories.” 

The site also refers to an ongoing initiative by the chain’s management, launched after Schnatter’s departure as chairman, to audit the company’s diversity and inclusion practices. 

“As we continue to ‘Do Better,’ we will reinforce this spirit of unity where all people are respected, welcomed and celebrated as their authentic selves within our walls and the communities we serve,” the site concludes. 

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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