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  • Writer's pictureMarc Primo

Papa John Founder Served A Slice Of Life

Updated: Mar 19, 2020

The following is an article “Papa John's Founder Served A Slice Of Life”

by Marc Primo.

In the quick service restaurant business, nothing proclaims to the world that you have finally arrived as loud as being the name and face of a brand.

While Colonel Sanders, who passed away in 1980, is still a household name that conjures images of finger lickin’ good fried chicken, Papa John’s founder John Schnatter has pushed the envelope even further and succeeded in using both his name and face to earn the distinction of being the world's third-largest pizza chain, with nearly 4,900 outlets worldwide.

When pizza dough turns sour

Sadly, not all success stories have a happy ending. Just recently, Schnatter, who founded Papa John’s more than 30 years ago, was left with no choice but to resign from his position as the company’s chairman of the board.

The shocking move came when what should have been a routine conference call involving other company executives took an unexpected turn as Schnatter inexplicably blurted out a racial slur for all to hear.

Worse, the context in which the offending word was used instantly had social media ablaze, with many netizens quick to label the world’s most famous pizza dude a ‘fascist’ and ‘racist’, not to mention the inevitable comparisons made to America’s own chief executive.

The downside of brand endorsement

This plot twist to a success story that epitomizes the American Dream is a classic textbook example of the pitfalls that businesses face when a brand’s entire identity is entrusted to one person alone.

Unlike mascots, such as Ronald McDonald, whose conduct and presence are variables that companies have complete and total control over, brand endorsers made out of flesh and blood at times can be as much of a liability to the company as an asset.

In this case, not only did Schnatter commit a major faux pas in a world torn between political correctness and knee-jerk discrimination, he even went on to break the cardinal rule of crisis management. Rather than offer a sincere resignation and quietly step aside to let the dust settle, he instead concluded that the best course of action would be to stay in the limelight and raise hell with those who would not allow that kind of behavior to be associated with the brand.

Practice what you preach

In September, Schnatter decided to turn the tables on his former colleagues via a highly publicized lawsuit that essentially seeks to smear their reputation for one reason or another, while he jockeys into position with the intention of regaining the top position in the company he founded.

Granted that the role of a brand endorser is to personify a product or service and promote it by acting as its ambassador, Schnatter might want to revisit the slogan that catapulted his business to where it is today. If he truly believes in his tagline “better ingredients, better pizza”, then he might consider practicing the same philosophy as an individual, one day at a time: “better attitude, better man”.


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