Industry News | August 12, 2015 | QSR Exclusive Brief

Papa John's Brings New Meaning to an Old Slogan

image used with permission.

Ask anyone walking down the street to recite the Papa John’s slogan, and chances are he will answer without skipping a beat, “Better ingredients. Better pizza. Papa John’s.” Ask him to explain the “how” behind those words and the answer will be less eager.

Papa John himself—founder and CEO John Schnatter—is hoping to infuse that mantra with fresh meaning as the brand launches a new campaign to improve the quality by removing even more artificial ingredients and fillers from its pizza.

“No matter how good you are, you can always be better,” Schnatter says. “When I say, ‘better ingredients, better pizza,’ I’d better back it up.”

To give consumers a more concrete illustration of this commitment, Papa John’s created a new webpage that lists unwanted (and often unpronounceable, see: Azodicarbonamide and Caprocaprylobehenin) ingredients that are not used, currently used, or publically committed to removing by 2016. The page also compares Papa John’s ingredient scorecard with two "clean" leaders, Chipotle and Panera—the latter of which launched its own No No List campaign for artificial ingredients.

By the end of this year, Schnatter says the brand will be on par with Chipotle, which he says is the cleanest of all the labels they studied. He adds that the company will also be able to make the blanket statement that it uses no artificial colors by the same deadline.

As some brands might be loath to learn, premium ingredients often cost a pretty penny. For Schnatter, it is a price that Papa John’s has been willing to pay long before the current health wave. Back in 1996 when Papa John’s numbered about 1,000 locations nationwide, Schnatter visited a Kansas sausage and beef plant and specified that he did not want the artificial ingredients or unsavory parts such as the hoof or face of the animal in the product. Even though he was told that it would be costly and that the rest of the pizza industry used those ingredients, Schnatter says he would not compromise. 

“That’s when the slogan, which is really a way of life, came to be,” he says. “You can’t make good wine from bad grapes. … Everyone wants to own the quality positioning, but what you’ve got to look at is: Quality takes time and quality costs money.”

In an effort to illustrate this renewed commitment to its core values, Papa John’s took a break from celebrity-studded commercials featuring the likes of football superstars Peyton Manning and Joe Montana. The newest ad shows only Schnatter as he talks about starting Papa John’s within his father’s tavern in the 1980s and staying dedicated to quality when competitors relied on cheaper alternatives.

So far, Schnatter says, Papa John’s has seen a positive response to the new campaign, which he attributes to the genuine message behind it. Now 53, Schnatter has been making pizzas for 38 years and at the helm of Papa John’s for nearly 31 of those years. In addition to consumers, he keeps his own family in mind when making quality commitments.

“Everything we do around here, I look at through the lens of my kids and grandkids. I want them to look back when they see a distribution center that we built or the product we’re putting out, I want them to say ‘Hey, Grandad was pretty good at what he did.’ It’s a big deal to me,” he says.

By Nicole Duncan

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