LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Papa John's International has named three franchise groups as its Franchise Operators of the Year, according to a news release.

The groups include Elizabethtown, Ky.-based Hinkle Enterprises Inc. — Single Restaurant Franchise; Harrisburg, Penn.-based Circle C Corp. — Small Group Franchise (2-9 restaurants); and San Antonio -based Pizza Venture of San Antonio LLC — Large Group Franchise (10+ or more restaurants).

All three franchises hold high standards of product quality and training in their restaurants and, in return, demonstrate profitability and manage successful restaurant operations.

"Our franchisees make up about 80 percent of the Papa John's system and it is extremely important to reward and recognize their achievements," said Bill Van Epps, chief operations officer of Papa John's. "All of the winners are exceptional role models for the entire franchise community in terms of product quality and customer service. I'm honored to have them as a part of our team."

Barry and Becky Hinkle of Hinkle Enterprises Inc. own and operate one restaurant in Elizabethtown, Ky. This year's win marks the third consecutive year the Hinkles have earned the honor. The Hinkles continue to raise the bar for their fellow Papa John's franchisees, repeatedly demonstrating how mastering the fundamentals results in increased comp sales and customer loyalty.

Lee Carroll of Circle C Corp. owns and operates eight restaurants in the capital region of Pennsylvania. This franchisee has been a nominee on three different occasions, with this year representing his first win.

Serving as both franchisee and operating partner for Circle C, Lee focuses on training and is committed to improving the culture and attitude in his restaurants. The award illustrates Circle C as an example of excellence in operations and commitment to a better customer experience.

Clark Mandigo of Pizza Venture of San Antonio LLC owns 17 restaurants in the San Antonio area. William Rodriguez has been the operating partner for the last five years, overseeing the operations of all 17 restaurants. He began his career with Pizza Venture as a manager in July 1995.

This year's honor is Pizza Venture's second Franchise Operators of the Year recognition. Their win was awarded in 1995. And despite recent challenges, this team was successful in 2004 with positive comp-sales growth. Concentrating on operations and local store marketing has helped Pizza Venture stand tall.

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