During what’s developed into a public-relations nightmare with its ousted founder, John Schnatter, Papa John’s has released statements, penned letters, and taken to social media to defend the brand’s values. Now, it’s putting the message in the hands of its 120,000 employees.
The company unveiled its new creative campaign September 18. Labeled “Voices,” the effort spotlights the faces and stories behind the 5,000-plus-unit chain. It features “real people who own and operate Papa John’s restaurants in local communities,” the brand said. They volunteered to participate in the creation of the campaign “and represent the heart of the brand because they’re working every day to provide customers with better service and better pizza,” Papa John’s said.
Ramaa Mosley, the director of “Girl Rising,” who has a 20-year career directing feature films and commercials, directed Papa John’s commercial. The campaign with start with these ads and other activations on Papa John’s website, social channels, and in local communities.
The campaign launched with a microsite, stories.papajohns.com. In addition to the commercial, and background on the ad, there’s a portal to learn more about Papa John’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. There, the company says, “Together, we’re going to do better,” and goes on to outline some of the goals.
- We're committed to doing better in this mission through expanded and new diversity initiatives, including developing a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee to better foster an inclusive environment that reflects the communities we serve. To make sure we get it right, we are assessing the culture at Papa John's, expanding our diversity and inclusion trainings, and are bringing more accountability to our diversity recruitment efforts so that we all can do better—as a company and as individuals.
- We're meeting with and listening to the concerns of our customers, our community partners, our store owners and our Papa John's team members. We're not only listening to feedback, we're taking meaningful steps to celebrate the rich diversity within Papa John's and in the communities in which we operate.
There’s also a progress update written by CEO Steve Ritchie. It features an August 24 letter where he breaks down what Papa John’s has done so far to improve its standing, including “assembling a special advisory group comprised of nationally-respected diversity, equity and inclusion experts to help guide us,” he said.
There’s also a breakdown of the independent cultural audit and investigation taking place at Papa John’s, designed to review its processes, policies, and systems related to diversity and inclusion, supplier and vendor engagement, and Papa John’s culture. The Center for Talent Innovation is leading the audit in conjunction with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.
“The goal of the audit is to get as many perspectives as possible from a varied and diverse array of team members at our corporate headquarters and to take meaningful action based on recommendations from the audit and best practices across industry sectors,” Papa John’s said.
The site then features stories from around the company, from a franchise owner in South Lyon, Michigan, to an operator who lost everything after the recession in the 1980s before Papa John’s helped him rebuild.
Papa John’s is still fighting through very public battles with Schnatter, who exited as executive chairman July 11, and has waged war with the company’s board ever since. He stepped down following a scandal where he admitted to using a racial slur in a May conference call. This was allegedly during a training exercise in the wake of his November NFL comments criticizing the sports league for its handling of national anthem protests. Since, Schnatter has accused Papa John’s of misconduct, sued the company over documents to prove the mishandling of his departure, and continued to rail against management, including Ritchie. Papa John’s, meanwhile, has tried to remove his image from marketing and distance itself from Schnatter, a task that has proven exceptionally difficult so far.
In a recent letter to the “Papa John’s Community,” the company denied all of Schnatter’s claims and said: “John Schnatter is promoting his self-interest at the expense of all others in an attempt to regain control. John Schnatter is harming the Company, not helping it, as evidenced by the negative impact his comments and actions have had on our business and that of our franchisees.”
In the period that ended July 1, Papa John’s North America same-store sales dropped 6.1 percent.