Papa John's founder launches website to plea for franchisee, employee support
- Papa John's founder and former CEO John Schnatter launched a website called SavePapaJohns.com that pleas for employee and franchisee support and seeks to "get the truth out there." In a statement posted on the site, Schantter wrote that the "Board wants to silence me. So, this is my website, and my way to talk to you."
- Through the site, Schnatter apologizes for putting the chain's employees and followers "through this" — a reference to a bitter dispute with the Papa John's board that stems from his ousting over the use of the n-word and other controversial comments made during a conference call earlier this year. Schantter resigned as chairman of the board following the initial Forbes articles in July reporting the incident; he previously stepped down as CEO over comments made about the NFL national anthem protests against police brutality.
- The full site includes a roundup of legal documents, statements, letters, press releases and news coverage of Schnatter's saga. Earlier this week, Schnatter took out a full-page ad in the Louisville Courier Journal, the company's local paper, that directs franchise owners and employees to the website, according to Bloomberg. Schnatter has previously sued the Papa John's board for documents related to his ouster. The board enacted a "poison pill" strategy in late July to prevent Schnatter from gaining a controlling interest in the company.
Papa John's the company has made progress on the path to rehabilitating its image in the weeks since Schnatter's ouster, but the founder himself remains a vocal critic who could potentially hinder some of those efforts. With the full-page newspaper ad and website with overtones of conspiracy theory about "the truth," Schnatter is clearly trying to spur some pushback among the brand's franchisees and employees, aligning them as allies against the board in his ongoing dispute.
Appealing to franchise owners and workers may not be as successful as Schnatter thinks, however, as many have seen sliding sales and boycotts following his racist remarks. Papa John's has recently had to offer greater financial aid to some franchisees, who have received support elsewhere as well. Earlier this month, the New York Post reported that several Major League Baseball teams that had initially cut ties with Papa John's had started to reinstate partnerships and promotions with the company. Some of the reasoning behind working with the brand again was to show solidarity with local franchisees that weren't involved with Schnatter's comments.
Papa John’s in July started scrubbing Schnatter from all of its marketing and branding materials. Existing leadership has been working to turn around the company's perception in other ways. The pizza chain recently named Endeavor as its new agency of record. The agency's CMO Bozoma Saint John, previously the marketing chief at Uber, said Endeavor will seek to offer "cultural help" and craft "deeply moving" campaigns for the brand instead of an apology.
Papa John's reported in second-quarter earnings that North American same-store sales dropped 10.5% in July around the start of the founder controversy. The company predicted that sales will fall 7% to 10% overall this year.
- Save Papa John's Save Papa John's
- Bloomberg Papa John's Founder Appeals to Employees in Fight Against Chain