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Papa John's Pizza - History, Growth, Controversies, Trivia

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Papa John’s Pizza is one of the top three pizza restaurants in the United States; the other two are Domino’s and Pizza Hut. Papa John’s is based out of Kentucky. There are almost 3.000 Papa John’s in the United States, more than 200 in the United Kingdom, and 20 located internationally. Papa John’s founder, John Schnatter worked at Rocky’s Sub Pub while attending high school in Indiana. Schnatter then attended Ball State University while working as a delivery boy for Greek’s Pizzeria. After graduating, Schnatter started to work for his father who owned Mick’s Lounge- a bar in Jeffersonvillle. Mick’s Lounge began serving pizza in 1984, and was soon converted into the very first Papa John’s.


Papa John’s credits its rapid growth to excellent customer service, high-quality products and a simple menu. Any pizza that does not get an eight on a scale of 1-10 is thrown away or given to employees. There were only a few options in crust styles and other foods available, which simplified inventory and allowed for better focus on quality. Recently, Papa John’s has begun to market new menu items which are advertised constantly. These recent additions include pan pizza and thin-crust styles, each with a new type of sauce or taste. In order to simplify operations on-site and to allow for better product consistency within the chain, many steps in preparation are produced off-site. These steps include dough preparation and the mixing of spices in the sauce. This tactic is used by a number of large fast food chains. Papa John’s collects most of its revenue through carryout and delivery orders, but the majority of locations have seating arrangements available. Papa John’s allows customers to place orders online throughout the United States. This online service assigns the customers to the closest location to process the order.


Even though it has been successful, Papa John’s has also had some difficulties. Pizza Hut sued Papa John’s in 1997 because of the Papa John’s slogan which claimed that Papa John’s used better ingredients and made better pizza than competitiors. During the ensuing trial, the court sided with Pizza Hut, saying that the use of fresher ingredients did not necessarily make for a better pizza, and, therefore, was not a literal fact. This ruling was overturned two years later following an appeal from Papa John’s. Some believe that the reason the lawsuit was brought forward in the first place was because the founder of Pizza Hut, Frank Carney, had become a franchisee of Papa John’s in 1994. In 2001, Carney owned over 125 locations.


Papa John’s was the first major pizza chain that included dipping sauce with every pizza as well as pepperoncini- a traditional Italian garnish.

Papa John’s made a deal with Six Flags to sell its pizza in the theme parks exclusively in 2006.

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