Papa John’s unveiled a new organizational structure October 12 in tune with its broad strategic changes. The company said the moves would help “improve the experience that customers have with Papa John’s and accelerate growth.”

The newly dedicated roles and responsibilities around each consumer touch point will report to Mike Nettles. Formerly SVP, chief information and digital officer, Nettles is stepping into a position as executive vice president, chief operating and growth officer.

“Improving how we engage with our customers is core to the new operating priorities announced earlier this year,” Papa John’s president and CEO Steve Ritchie said. “By aligning our leadership structure around the customer experience, our team’s diverse talents will be leveraged to drive enterprise-wide change and pioneer new innovations that accelerate the company’s growth.”

Nettles joined Papa John’s in 2017. During his tenure, Papa John’s said, Nettles has developed a multi-year, customer-centric strategy to transform Papa John’s technology into an industry-leading platform. Before Papa John’s, Nettles was VP of enterprise architecture and IT strategy at Panera Bread.

In that span, Papa John’s has established new ordering partnerships, including Facebook Instant Ordering, Amazon Alexa, and DoorDash.

“Since joining last year, Mike has significantly elevated the consumer experience across our digital and mobile platforms,” Ritchie added. “His promotion and the other appointments announced today reflect the strong contributions these executives have made to Papa John’s and our belief that, in their new roles, they can propel our success even further.”

The following appointments will report to Nettles, effective immediately.

Justin Falciola was promoted to senior vice president, chief analytics and technology officer. Falciola most recently served as vice president, global enterprise architecture.

Anne Fischer was promoted to senior vice president, customer experience. Fischer most recently served as vice president, product management.

Paul Fabre was promoted to senior vice president, menu strategy and innovation. Fabre most recently served as vice president, R&D and quality assurance.

Melissa Richards-Person was promoted to senior vice president, chief brand officer. Richards-Person most recently served as vice president, global brand strategy and consumer connections.

Papa John’s has been all over the news in recent weeks. Earlier in October, Legion Partners Asset Management LLC disclosed a stake in the struggling pizza chain. According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the company is working with the California State Teachers’ Retirement system, which holds a portion of what amounts to a combined 5.5 percent stake in Papa John’s.

Per The Wall Street Journal, investors from Legion and the pension fund met members of Papa John’s special board committee. Ted White, a Legion managing director, told the WSJ that they’re supportive of the company’s steps to fix sagging sales. Papa John’s North America same-store sales declined 6.1 percent in the second quarter that ended July 1. Sales in the region then fell 10.5 percent from July 2 to July 29 and the company is forecasting negative 7–10 percent comps for the fiscal calendar.

The chain’s stock spiked October 8 on reports that activist hedge fund Trian Fund Management LP was evaluating a bid. The Wall Street Journal reported, according to people familiar with the matter, that the company contacted Papa John’s to collect information as it explores a possible takeover. This doesn’t guarantee Trian will make an offer or even that Papa John’s will be, in fact, sold.

However, The WSJ said Trian is just one of several parties to express interest since Papa John’s put itself up for sale in September. The source said there are “several other potential bidders … including companies and private-equity firms.”

Trian owns a roughly 13 percent stake in Wendy’s and has three seats on the chain’s board. Also, Nelson Peltz, Trian’s co-founder and Wendy’s chairman, invited Papa John’s beleaguered owner John Schnatter in June to meet the company’s leaders to discuss a possible deal, according to The WSJ.

On that account, The Wall Street Journal reported the two companies held preliminary merger discussions, but the possibility fizzled following a July 11 report that Schnatter used a racial slur during an in-company conference call.

One of the issues muddying a possible sale, though, has been Schnatter’s continued involvement with Papa John’s. He remains on the board and owns roughly 30 percent of its shares. His repeated criticism of management and public statements stymied some of Papa John’s efforts to move on. This includes removing him from marketing materials and launching an employee-focused campaign called “Voices.” There was also a report from AdAge that Papa John’s was thinking about dropping the apostrophe from its name and designing a new logo, possibly in an effort to show the 5,000-plus-unit brand wasn’t owned by Papa John himself.

Employee Management, Story, Papa Johns