Editor's note: The following information is part of a countdown recap from the inaugural Top 100 Movers and Shakers publication. It was published in the spring of 2012. Some of the information may now be different.
Papa John's has perhaps the most recognizable spokesperson in the restaurant industry in founder/chairman/CEO John Schnatter, who has successfully touted the "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza." tagline as a huge point of differentiation in the intense pizza wars.
Schnatter doesn't shy away from expressing pride in his company's avoidance of deep discounting. "Our brand remains resilient even in the face of what continues to be a challenging competitive and cost environment," Schnatter said in a recent earnings call. "We believe this commitment continues to resonate with the consumer. Quality always pays off in the long run, and it's gratifying to see consumers recognize better ingredients does mean a better product."
The chain has leveraged this positioning by launching products such as the five sausage pizza, with a new Chorizo sausage topping, as well as real pork sausage, mild and spicy sausage, and buffalo chicken pizza. Louisville, KY–based Papa John's has also taken advantage of its partnership with the NFL to boost its visibility with new and existing customers, particularly through its extensively promoted Coin Toss Super Bowl promotion. The campaign sparked a lift in online ordering and enrollment in Papa Rewards.
Papa John's online and mobile presence is also strong — its iPhone app was launched in December 2010 and its Android app a year later. Lance Tucker, CFO, estimates that online orders for the company overall are nor th of 30 percent and that number continues to grow.
Where the company is particularly making progress compared to its main competitors, however, is in unit count. After achieving its highest net openings in a decade, Papa John's system now includes more than 3,880 restaurants operating in all 50 states and 33 countries. This number includes 130 net new openings in the fourth quarter worldwide, and 237 net new units for 2011.
The development pipeline as of the end of 2011 included approximately 1,550 restaurants (350 units in North America and 1,200 units internationally), the majority of which are scheduled to open throughout the next six years. Overseas, the company is planting flags in markets from Russia to the Bahamas.
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