Last month, Papa John’s International, Inc. asked its loyal customers on Facebook to share their ideas for the next great specialty pizza as part of the company’s first ever “Papa’s Specialty Pizza Challenge.” Thousands of recipes later – and with three weeks still remaining in the contest – Papa John’s finds itself sifting through a number of top contenders.

Recipes have been inspired by far-away places. There’s “The Big Texan” from a customer in Cambellsburg, Indiana, “The Kentuckian” from a Papa John’s fan in Las Vegas, Nevada, “Mediterranean Medley” from Dayton, Ohio, plus hundreds of interpretations of what constitutes a “Hawaiian” pizza.

Pizzas have also been named in honor of loved ones, like “Dad’s Ham & Cheese” in Lexington, Kentucky, “Mom’s Not Cooking Tonight!” in Overland Park, Kansas, and “Grammy’s Favorite” in Valparaiso, Indiana.

And then there’s pure creativity, such as “The New PB&J” from Augusta, Georgia, “Kabobbin’ Kick” in Cuddy, Pennsylvania, and “The TNT! (Thin ‘n’ Tangy!) from Escalon, California.

“Every day there’s a new recipe, story, or name that catches our eye as customers have come out in droves to share their favorite combinations of Papa John’s ‘Better Ingredients,’” says Papa John’s chief marketing officer Andrew Varga. “The passion for our quality pizza and fresh ingredients is evident in every entry.”

Through June 14, participants can enter “Papa’s Specialty Pizza Challenge” on Papa John’s Facebook page, where they will be asked to create and name their very own specialty pie on Papa John’s fresh, never frozen original dough with sauce, cheese and a combination of up to seven Papa John’s better ingredients, including:

*Fresh-Packed Tomato Sauce: Made from vine-ripened tomatoes, which go from the vine to the can in an average of six hours

*Cheese made from 100 percent mozzarella

*100 percent real meats: bacon, beef, ham, grilled chicken, pepperoni, sausage, spicy Italian sausage

*Fresh-cut vegetables: onions, green peppers, and Roma tomatoes

*Other high-quality ingredients: including baby portabella mushrooms from Greece and black olives grown in the rich soils of southern Spain.

Participants must also share in 250 words or less what makes their pizza so special. Judges will take the pizza creation, the pizza name, and the story into consideration when completing their score sheets.

All entries are being featured in a gallery on Papa John’s Facebook page, from which “Papa” John Schnatter himself and his team of experts will choose ten semi-finalists. Those ten recipes will then be tested and tasted by Schnatter, a secret celebrity judge and other judges at company headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky. Schnatter, who personally developed many of the specialty pizza combinations currently offered by Papa John’s, and the other judges will trim the choices to the three best recipes, which will be showcased temporarily on Papa John’s menu (August 2–29), with the ultimate winner being the highest-selling pizza.

And because the stakes – a portion of sales dollars from the winner’s recipe – are so high Papa John’s is offering the top three finalists a marketing budget of $1,000 to help drive sales of their respective pizzas.

The grand prize winner will also receive free Papa John’s pizza for life as well as a chance to appear in a “Papa’s in the House” TV commercial. For more details on “Papa’s Specialty Pizza Challenge,” including official contest rules, visit the Papa John’s Facebook page.

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