Papa John’s has made several moves this year to position it for a Schnatter-less future. Lynch, who replaced Steve Ritchie as CEO, was not the only new face brought in to add some momentum to Papa John’s turnaround. Basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal joined the company in the spring as a member of the board of directors, an investor in nine Atlanta locations, and, most importantly, as brand spokesman. Papa John’s has since rolled out a marketing blitz with O’Neal at the center, including the “Better Day” campaign in September that showed him interacting with employees and customers.
“We have seen since launching that campaign a positive movement across almost all of our consumer sentiment metrics that we track,” Lynch said in a call reporting the company’s earnings. “That's a long-term investment that we've made in the health of the brand, and that's an investment we're going to continue to make, alongside continuing to advertise and promote the innovation and the products that we're working on currently.”
On the call, Lynch outlined five strategic priorities for Papa John’s moving forward: a culture of leaders “who believe in inclusivity, diversity, and winning”; improved unit-level profitability across the system; superiority in the space via commercial platforms; better leveraging its technology infrastructure; and expanding its footprint domestically and internationally.
The management shakeup seems to be one part of the investment in a better leadership culture. But Lynch said on the call that it also includes investing in leadership at the store level.
“We must create a culture inside of each and every restaurant that inspires our team members to deliver the best service in the industry,” he said. “This comes from a dedication to development and training, and a commitment to not only making the best pizza, but creating the best environment for our workforce. One example of this is over the last year, we have created a tuition reimbursement program that's helping our team members receive the education that they need to fulfill their dreams.”
He added that an improved culture will help Papa John’s attract and retain talent, as well as drive innovation.