New Papa Johns CEO
Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share
28 August 2019
What are the challenges the new Papa Johns CEO faces?
The new Papa Johns CEO is Rob Lynch, who left the same position at Arby’s to take over the problematic pizza chain.
Things have not gone well for Papa John’s in recent years. First, John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John’s, angered the NFL and its players by very publicly blaming the NFL for Papa John’s customer losses. Schnatter claimed the NFL wasn’t doing anything about players kneeling during the National Anthem and it was damaging the Papa Johns brand who heavily sponsored the NFL.
Then, the Papa Johns CEO uses a racial slur in a conference call, and soon he’s out. But he left a disaster behind in his wake.
Over the last three years, Papa Johns has been declining, losing market share to Domino’s and Pizza Hut. (Ironically, Pizza Hut now stands as the pizza sponsor for the NFL, leapfrogging over Papa Johns in market share as a result.) In fact, last quarter same-store sales decreased 5.7% in North America.
Enter Rob Lynch as Papa Johns CEO after helping revive Arby’s. Lynch first came to Arby’s as Chief Marketing Officer and is responsible for the hugely successful “We have the meats” campaign. Lynch knows what he is doing.
“If the new Papa Johns CEO revives that pizza chain, he must perform the same magic he performed at Arby’s. It’s difficult, but doable.”
New Papa Johns CEO understands brand
That being said, Arby’s has one thing that Papa John’s lacks, a niche. In fast food, Arby’s is basically unique. For fast food consumers, Arby’s is different than the McDonald’s of the world. In many ways it has the same advantage that Taco Bell has. It doesn’t have to offer the best burger, just the best roast beef sandwich.
Additionally, the new Papa Johns CEO understands the power of messaging syncing with what you offer. “We have the meats” works perfectly with the sandwiches Arby’s makes – and it owns the right attitude.
But what can he do for Papa Johns? It’s fast food pizza. Domino’s is pizza. Pizza Hut is pizza. The local pizza shop is pizza. It is not unique with many direct substitutes and alternatives.
Whatever Lynch does at Papa Johns, it has to be more than just marketing. Changing behavior in the pizza category necessitates real change both within the organization and with its brand. All Arby’s had to do was contrast a roast beef sandwich with a hamburger. Right now, Papa Johns just sells pizza.
If the new Papa Johns CEO revives that pizza chain, he must perform the same magic he performed at Arby’s. It’s difficult, but doable.
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