The Awful Papa John Pizza and Karma

Let me start out by writing that, in my opinion, Papa John’s is the worst delivery pizza out there, so I wouldn’t be persuaded to eat Papa John’s pizza no matter how much they spend in advertising. I’m not the only one that feels this way about the pizza, I came across this quote describing Papa John’ pizza; “the pizzas he sells taste like unusually salty upholstery” on Google yesterday while researching the company. I believe this quote, on the same site, is most appropriate in describing the Papa John’s pizza: “Eating a Papa John’s slice is like chomping down on a piece of oil-flavored chewing gum but somehow much worse for your breath.” [1] That said, I find it extremely humorous that John Schnatter is complaining about the declining sales of NFL tickets and how it has affected his pizza business.

I am no pizza connoisseur so my complaints about Papa John’s may be my own issue alone. My family ranks Papa John’s so low on the scale that none of us would eat it even if we had to choose between a Papa John slice or SPAM. We all chose SPAM. Taste is subjective, but I wanted to get a feel for how Papa John’s ranks in the delivery pizza world. I Googled “delivery pizza rankings” and landed on Deadspin first and then on Business Insider. The unscientific delivery pizza rankings by Business Insider showed that Pizza Hut and Domino’s beat Papa John’s. Most significantly for me is that Papa John’s managed to beat both Domino’s and Pizza Hut in the breadstick category. Not surprising for me because how can anyone mess up breadsticks, it’s just bread for heaven’s sake, besides who goes to a pizza joint for the breadsticks?

The delivery pizza business is no laughing matter. According to a CHD Expert & Technomic 2015 report, pizza sales in the United States in 2015 was a $44.43 billion business. Technomic ranked Papa John’s as fourth largest pizza chain by annual sales.

Little Caesars beat out Papa John’s, yup a children’s chain selling child-centered pizza beat out Papa John’s!

Apparently, there is more going on with Papa John’s then the NFL protests.

John Schnatter, the founder and CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, has been on the news this week complaining about the NFL kneeling protests. Schnatter has been the NFL pizza sponsor since 2010, but apparently, he is now complaining that Papa John’s drop in sales is the result of the kneeling protests. Schnatter was quoted in the news media last week arguing that the “NFL has hurt” his pizza brand.

If you look closely at John’s Schnatter’s claim to fame, you soon realize that it is all a marketing gimmick centered around a Camaro – all smoke-and-mirrors but no substance – just like the mystic surrounding Donald Trump.

Before complaining about the NFL hurting his business, Schnatter had complained about Obamacare. Schnatter has donated to Republican causes, including Donald Trump – $2,000 in 2016. Schnatter’s public support for Donald Trump has caused me to hope for the failure of his pizza chain, so when he is losing money, I’m smiling.

According to Forbes, last week, John Schnatter had a very bad day, he lost $70 million in net worth after announcing his company’s latest financials to his stockholders. Investors clearly are not happy with the sales forecasts from the pizza chain as the stock dropped by 11%.

As soon as Schnatter’s net worth started to tank, he went on a tirade about the NFL protests. Cause and effect? Likely.

But as bad as the pizza is, the underlining company is bad news as well.

Earlier this year, two Papa John’s employees in Washington state were arrested for selling cocaine through the pizza store. In 2013, a New York Papa John’s employee was also arrested for using the pizza store as his drug delivery point.

Papa John’s franchises are no strangers to labor disputes involving pay to employees. In 2015, Papa John’s agreed to pay $12 million to settle a case by delivery drivers who sued for being shortchanged by the company. Other cases of shortchanging employees can be found in different jurisdictions.

So, now it’s not only bad pizza but it seems a corporate culture that fosters drug dealing employees and shortchanging workers. That’s what gets me about the Donald Trump supporters, all full of gimmicky marketing and no substance but pontificating about the greatness of their enterprises. When things go wrong, it’s not their fault, but that of others. For Schnatter, his bad financials couldn’t possibly be about bad pizza but, rather about NFL players bringing attention to a national issue that needs to be addressed.

I guess that’s what Make America Great Again really means – no substance lathered with lots of excuses – just like Papa John’s pizza.

Footnotes:
1. Roth, David; “Did Crybaby Loser Papa John Also Lose Our Chain Pizza Rankings?”; Deadspin, November 1, 2017
2. Johnson, Hollis; “We taste-tested pizzas from Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, and Domino’s and the best choice is clear”; Business Insider, February 9, 2017

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