Through the first part of the year, sales at Papa John’s grew year-over year despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
From December 30 to January 26, comp sales leaped 9.4 percent at U.S. corporate stores, 7.1 percent at North American franchises, 7.6 percent systemwide in North America, and 4.9 percent internationally.
By the end of Q1, the trajectory of those numbers was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pizza chain still remained in the black. Same-store sales at North American units systemwide grew 5.3 percent. Comps increased 6.1 percent at domestic company-operated stores and 5.1 percent at North American franchises. International units grew 2.3 percent. The only period to dip below zero came February 24 to March 29 when comp sales at international stores dipped 0.6 percent.
“First in Asia, then in Europe, and now in North and South America, we have seen the COVID-19 pandemic impact our business differently, depending on the restrictions enacted by governments,” said CEO Rob Lynch in a statement. “In some international markets this has resulted in temporary closures, but in most markets, including North America, we are nearly fully operational. Although March sales in North America were negatively impacted by the cancellation of large gatherings, including major sporting events, our international and domestic businesses have performed well, as customers and communities rely on us and others in the food delivery industry.”
Papa John’s said 350 of its 2,100 international franchised stores are temporarily closed, mainly in Ireland, Peru, and the Philippines. In China, 15 stores are closed and in South Korea, one unit remains closed.
Lynch said the company has access to $350 million in its credit facility in case it needs financial flexibility.
The CEO said the brand expanded health care to include free virtual doctor visits, which builds on the existing benefits of free mental health support and access to an employee relief fund.
Papa John’s announced earlier that it plans to hire 20,000 new workers. The brand said it simplified the hiring process so that most individuals can start in most restaurants on the same day. Applications can be completed online in a few minutes, and the company is offering flexibility to interview by phone or in-person, with some safety precautions. Delivery drivers are equipped with sanitation kits for use before, during, after, and in-between deliveries.
“As we all work together to manage through the COVID-19 pandemic, I am incredibly proud of the tireless work of Papa John’s team members and franchisees, who are stepping up to serve our communities in these unprecedented times,” Lynch said in a statement. “From delivering meals to healthcare workers, first responders and families, to supporting blood drives and the organizations on the frontlines of this crisis, the Papa John’s family has already served tens of thousands of meals to our neighbors in need. These acts remind me every day that it’s both our privilege and duty during this time to keep our doors open and help feed our neighbors.”
A Datassential report revealed that 63 percent of consumers want pizza, which is 12 percentage points above the second-place category of sandwiches and burgers. In addition to Papa John’s, Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Hungry Howie’s, and Jet’s Pizza have announced major hiring waves.
Also of note, former CEO John Schnatter sold off more shares and dropped his stake in the company to under 4 percent. This means he will no longer have to file with the SEC. The controversial founder sold 350,000 shares and now holds roughly 1.3 million.