As employers across the restaurant industry continue to battle for team members, some companies are choosing to bolster their benefits programs to attract and retain top talent. 

On Wednesday, Papa Johns expanded its Dough & Degrees tuition benefits program to include all corporate team members who work a minimum of 10 hours per week. That means more employees can choose to further their education debt-free, whether it’s a professional certificate program, an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, or even a master’s degree.  

Marvin Boakye, chief people and diversity officer at Papa Johns, noted the brand’s approach differs from competitors who may only offer a reimbursement benefit versus footing the bill upfront. The program is also unique because of its accessibility to more than just full-time employees, he says.

“Dough & Degrees empowers Papa Johns team members to earn degrees across a wide range of subjects of their own choosing,” Boakye says, “and all costs are paid for upfront by Papa Johns, so there are no out-of-pocket costs to team members—as opposed to programs that reimburse employees for their education expenses.”

After being employed for 60 days, team members who work at least 10 hours per week can choose from a variety of educational offerings at a newly-expanded range of schools and universities.

More than 80 percent of Dough & Degrees students work on the frontlines in corporate Papa Johns restaurants. Out of Papa Johns’ 3,000-plus restaurant footprint in the U.S., about 600 units are owned by corporate, according to QSR 50 data

About 250 Papa Johns employees have taken advantage of the Dough & Degrees program since it launched in 2019. Of those, more than 60 team members have earned associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees at no cost. While not expected by the company, many of those graduates have chosen to pay it forward and are now serving in various roles at Papa Johns, from operations and marketing to supply chain.

“At Papa Johns, ‘People First’ is one of our core values. That means helping our team members meet a broad range of needs—including equipping them for their future,” Boakye added in a statement.

Papa Johns has invested more than $3.5 million into the program since its launch, and expects to invest even more with the lowered eligibility requirements and expanded education opportunities. Papa Johns partnered with EdAssist by Bright Horizons, a provider of workforce education solutions, to administer the newly expanded program.

Employee Management, Pizza, Story, Papa Johns