Talk about the aggregator part of this. As people know, it’s not every day a major pizza chain hooks up with third-party vendors to deliver its product.
We see that as very incremental business. Customers come through those channels—they’re folks we may otherwise not have gotten. And now they’re starting to enjoy Papa John’s. Once they determine we’re a brand they want to do business with, they can come into our organic channels and get a better deal with us than the aggregator platform. We think there’s a virtuous cycle there.
In return, we give a lot of trips to DoorDash and they’re happy—we’re one of their largest customers. It’s been a really positive partnership. Strategically, it’s helped us both from new customer acquisition as well as mitigating some of the labor challenges the entire industry is facing.
As an executive with a marketing background, are you embracing this idea there’s a “stuffed crust pizza rivalry” (as this story suggests) brewing between Papa John’s and Pizza Hut?
Absolutely. I loved when I read that (story) because that means that not only are our customers paying attention to what we’re doing, but our competitors are. They are watching the progress that we’ve made, and for them to acknowledge that there’s a stuffed crust rivalry here, it means we accomplished our adjective. Of course, we believe our products are the best. That’s why we talk about Better Ingredients. Better Pizza. When we positioned our stuffed crust, it wasn’t just stuffed crust, it was Papa John’s crust, stuffed. We think our crust, always fresh, never frozen, six simple ingredients, is the best in the business, and why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that and offer it in a lot of craveable ways to customers that may not have come to your brand before.
So love the stuffed crust rivalry. We think we have a winning product to win that race.
You’re selling a lot of Shaq-a-Roni Pizzas, too. Over 3 million in September and October.
Shaq isn’t just another spokesperson for us. He’s a franchisee. He has ownership in the brand. He’s a board member. And so, when we came up with this idea for Shaq-a-Roni it was about more than just launching a product. It was about how do we put Shaq into a situation where all of the great things he brings to the table can be married with all of the great things we’re trying and aspiring to be. The Shaq-a-Roni and the fundraising piece of that program is really the most important part of it. (The product raises $1 from every pizza sold for the Papa John's foundation. That’s amounted to $3 million this year).
It’s not about the product and the sales—it’s much more about the good it creates. Every pizza that we sell generates $1 that is then able to be reinvested back into the communities in which we work, live, and operate. Shaq loves that. When we’re out there talking about “pizza with purpose,” and our competitors are out there talking about giving away free stuff and discounted stuff, that is indicative of the difference in perspective and strategy. Our goal is to elevate our brand. Our goal is to help people see why Papa John’s is different than a lot of the other national players. And I think the Shaq-a-Roni being a great product, but an even better contributor to communities that can use the help is something that has really helped our brand move in the direction we’re trying to go.
I’ve always talked about, we’re not going to try to beat Domino’s by trying to be Domino’s. Our goal isn’t to tell people we have the cheapest, fastest pizza. Our goal is to tell people we have the best pizza and you can feel great about buying it from Papa John’s.
So going forward, how does Papa John’s take a 31 percent two-year stack of same-store sales and keep that momentum going?
It’s crazy. It’s been such a wild ride for the past two years. But we really haven’t changed our fundamental strategies. We put our plan in place back in 2019 and we haven’t changed anything. We’ve just accelerated everything. It’s all about delivering the best products that we can deliver being innovative in everything that we do. Leveraging technology to help us connect with our customers and help make us more productive throughout our system, and build more restaurants. Find great partners, domestically and internationally that are going to help us do that. That’s what we’re focused on—those same things.
We’ve got a great lineup of innovation on the product front set up for 2022. We have recently announced some great partners that are coming in to help us build restaurants, both internationally and domestically. We’re investing more capital than we ever have in our technology footprint, our consumer facing as well as our store infrastructure. So it’s not going to be a big departure from what we’ve been doing the last two years. It seems to be working for us. We’re just going to double down on everything.