Papa John's announced on Jan. 2 that it will introduce the six-inch dessert pizza, topped with cinnamon and a glazed icing, at its 2,700 U.S. units on Jan. 6.
Purchasers of a large, one-topping pizza for $9.99 will get a free Cinnapie during a promotional period ending Jan 26. The sweet treat's rollout will be supported by print, radio and television ads centering on the tagline "Free Dessert? Sweet!"
"It doesn't surprise me that they've got one, too, now, but it is kind of unbelievable that they're so obsessed with us that they'd add so many things we have," said Pizza Magia president Dan Holland, who served as Papa John's president from 1990 to 1995. "Before we started (Pizza Magia) we had chicken, and now they've got chicken. We had barbecue chicken pizza, now they have it. We had our Sweetie Pie and now they've got this."
Papa John's spokesperson Karen Sherman denied the Cinnapie is a copy of the Sweetie Pie. She said Pizza Magia wasn't the first operation to have a dessert pizza, and pointed to Domino's Pizza's 2002 additions of Cinnastix and Dots as proof that dessert offerings are now popular in quick-service pizza.
"That would be like saying because one company has a pepperoni pizza that another company can't," Sherman said. "It's a dessert pizza, but it doesn't take away from our core product, which is pizza. "
While Holland called it "flattering" that a company the size of Papa John's would produce menu items similar to its own, he called it ironic that Papa John's would do so in light of its ongoing lawsuit against Pizza Magia.
In September of 2000, 2,900-store Papa John's filed a multiple-count lawsuit against Pizza Magia for a host of trademark violations, including product duplication.
Holland and several Pizza Magia officers, who are former Papa John's employees and executives, are named in the suit.
For nearly two years the case has remained in discovery, but a trial date has been set for June of 2003.
Sherman denied that Papa John's was attempting to have it both ways by creating products similar to Pizza Magia's while accusing the company of copying its own.
"I think that that lawsuit is much broader than that," she said. "It goes into a lot of proprietary information and recipes, etc. So I don't think you can compare the two."
** In related news, Pizza Magia was named to the Franchise Times 20, a list of the top 20 issues and companies to keep an eye on in 2003. The list was published in the magazine's January issue.
Twelve of the 20 were restaurant/quick-service companies, including such notables as McDonald's, Pizzeria Uno, Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburgers and Panera Bread Co.
Among the key issues listed were international expansion of franchises, the U.S. economy and activity in the fast-casual restaurant segment.