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Home News The Success Story of John Schnatter | Papa John's

The Success Story of John Schnatter | Papa John’s

Papa John’s was something of an anomaly in the fast-food industry it was perhaps the only major pizza brand that put the founder front and center painting the image of a business built from scratch by a man with a vision that man is John Schnatter who ran the company from its inception in 1984 until he was forced out in 2018  the events surrounding.

Mr. Schneider’s departure is a stark contrast to his folksy backstory but to fully appreciate how Mr. Schneider went from the friendly face of pizza to an outrageous larger-than-life character we must start at the beginning John H Schneider was born in Jeffersonville Indiana on November 22nd, 1961 his parents Mary and  Robert were real estate agent and judge respectively Robert even ran as a  Democrat for Indiana’s lieutenant governor position in 1968 young John was considered an excellent math student and learned a great deal about business.

Watching his father pursue side ventures John recounted that many of these businesses failed to mean the family would sometimes go without electricity in light of this he found his grandfather the better financial role model an archived version of the Papa John’s website.

Mr. John Schnatter Jobs

Recounts for a 15-year-old John got his first job at rocky sub pub removed up the ladder from dishwasher to making pizzas somewhere along the way he bought a 1972 Camaro  z28 a vehicle that became a crucial part of Papa Johns lore throat is an undergrad at Ball State University John worked at Greeks pizzeria honing the craft John was passionate about pizza being quoted early on as eating it at least two to three times a week he once considered it healthy because it hit all four food groups in his downtime John devised recipes and branding for a  pizza parlor he dreamed of owning one day Papa John’s by 1984 John earned his business degree his father owned a tavern called mix around then where John started working after college mix was close to bankruptcy. 

Business Startup

Papa John's
Papa John’s

John sold his beloved Camaro for  $2,800 to keep the business afloat with the leftover cash he bought used Pizza making equipment and set up small pizzas in the Broome a year later Mr. Schneider was doing well enough that he established his first standalone Papa John’s Pizza in Jeffersonville he attributed his success to seeking better quality ingredients which remains a tenant of the company image.

Mr. Schneider built another seven pizzas over the next year before franchising the business out beginning with the location and Fern Creek Kentucky he married a net Cox in 1987 the couple would go on to have two children growth was exponential for Papa John’s Pizza with the chain managing a hundred locations by 1991 and 500 by 1994 five years later boasted over 2,000 stores and the company was now worth approximately 1 billion dollars but underneath the success, it seemed like something was changing within Mr.Schneider in a 1998 New York Times article about the pizza industry it was reported that Mr. Schneider randomly appeared at franchises to inspect their quality a former employee said Mr. Schneider would quote blow his stack if any aspect falls short it was also said that those who drew Mr. Schneider’s ire knew it right away when one executive fell out of favor Mr. Schneider apparently moved his parking spot to the most inconvenient location possible Mr. Schneider denied this ever happened the company saw five executives leave over the course of a  year and a half Mr. Schneider’s new advisor Jack trout suggested he tried to build a warmer image and tendon with a stronger presence in the branding even if he indeed relaxed success seemed to have fuelled Mr. Schneider’s ego when a new Papa John’s headquarters was built in Louisville Kentucky he was said to have had a fresco of his own face commissioned for the ceiling in 1999 Mr. Schneider and the Papa John’s company were sued by a former employee named  Leslie workman who alleged that the owner had sexually harassed her for months according to Miss workman Mr. Schneider would try to kiss and grope her and made frequent visits to her home.

She also claimed the ad roses sent constantly and sometimes threw rocks at her bedroom window Mr. Schneider responded by saying Miss workman was trying to extort his business for five million dollars to pay off personal debts at age calm reported in 2018 that the case was dismissed after miss workman signed a confidentiality agreement under unspecified conditions making it impossible to ascertain the outcome the new millennium saw Papa John’s embroiled in what was dubbed the pizza holy war with its competitor Pizza Hut the LA  Times reported that warfare included Pizza Hut sending camera crews to Papa John’s plants to go through their garbage this was to verify the claim of better ingredients Mr. Schneider defended his product and retaliated by enlisting the founder of  Pizza Hut now a Papa John’s franchisee to appear in commercials he noted that his rival CEO David Novak was quite similar to even praying at the same church and that this was not personal Papa John’s claimed to have pioneered nationwide online delivering in 2001 setting an exorbitant amount of sales records nevertheless business saw a crash near 2004 Mr. Schneider was furious he blamed what he called quote fat and happy franchisees who were cutting corners.

Papa John's Pizza
Papa John’s Pizza

Thus, soiling the value of his brand forty-five corporate employees were let go and as a cost-cutting measure, Mr. Schneider is said Mr have ordered the heat be turned off at the headquarters he also began using burner phones for business calls saying it was in the interest of corporate security in 2005  the television show.

The Apprentice ran a competition designing and marketing meatball pizzas the winner of which would receive a deal with Domino’s  Pizza Donald Trump would then go on to market these four Domino’s Mr. Schneider responded with a  commercial of his own airing during The Apprentice in it he quips why eat a pizza made by apprentices when you can call the pros at Papa John’s he has nevertheless become one of Mr.Trump’s most staunch supporters through his campaign and presidency Mr. Schneider stepped down as CEO  voluntarily around this time to see if outside management could help the company. He returned three years later the Papa John’s company was far more aggressive in international markets over the next few years beginning in 2008 with a five-year plan to build 500  locations in China Mr. Schneider continue to play the face of  the company through this in an attempt to replicate the success as charming the public image hat in America while doing promotion abroad he was quoted in a 2009  BBC radio interview saying pizza is  actually healthy for you if you don’t eat too much of it you can’t eat five or six slices but if you eat one or two it’s very nutritious the British media found this amusing though business was again taking a  downturn a personal victory came for Mr. Schneider the same year when he posted a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar  reward for his old Camaro the call was  answered and the company ran a promotion campaign in celebration where it gave  khmer owners free pizza but the situation wasn’t as rosy as the  company’s website suggested billy Sloan  of Indiana pointed Mr. Schneider to who  she sold the car to according to Autoblog calm but when she only received  10% of the promised award due to a  technicality she threatened to sue the company insisted the rules stated that the current owner would receive the full amount and made good on that promise the outcome of Mrs. Sloan’s lawsuit is unclear mr. Schneider faced more legal troubles when he was yet again sued for sexual harassment this time by a 24-year-old marketing employee as reported by Forbes magazine the CEO had reportedly  installed personal friends loyal to him  including a classmate from his high  school in key positions within the  company complaints about lewd conduct  were reportedly ignored as a result some  of the harassment was said to be deeply  personal in nature to which management  present would simply laugh one employee  was apparently asked if she had ever  slept with a past boss Mr. Schneider’s  executives and managers were also known  for keeping mistresses that they paraded  around in public as at the Super Bowl Mr. Schneider himself was accused of  ordering employees to spy on one another going so far as to recommend they  rummaged through co-workers’ emails Mr. Schneider has denied this ever  happened the Board of Directors ordered an independent audit from here to see  what changes to the culture at Papa  John’s were necessary most of this turmoil remained under non-disclosure agreements at the time though so Mr. Schneider could safely remain the face of his company by now the Camaro was worked even further into Papa John’s branding the company also jumped on the social media bandwagon fairly early on in 2010 enjoying success from its digital campaigns more importantly though this is the year when Papa John’s was named the NFL’s official pizza sponsor as a lifelong football fan Mr. Schneider was elated it seemed his dreams were coming true he starred in commercials.

Alongside quarterback Peyton  Manning and by now proudly owned three homes one of these was a limestone  Italian villa in the heart of Louisville  Kentucky  The Daily Beast calm noticed a trend during the 2012 Republican primaries most pizza CEOs like that of Domino’s  Pizza had ties to the Republican Party a candidate named Herman Cain was even once the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza John  Schnatter was one of these patrons which would normally not be newsworthy as long as you kept it away from his business but over the next decade mr. Schneider went on to make his politics an overt and often detrimental part of his public image  2012 started off as typical as an ear for Papa John’s Mr. Schneider devised an Mrll-received viral marketing strategy in which those who correctly predicted the outcome of  Super Bowl 46 won free pizza this helps solidify the company’s relationship to the NFL shareholders who were pretty happy with Mr. Schneider’s peak performance around this time the company even won public favor and wake of controversy on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show the hosts had repeatedly attacked an American Lawyer and women’s rights activist named Sandra Fluke over the course of several days in the incident saw Mr. Limbaugh whose a conservable number of sponsors including  Papa John’s Mr. Schneider held a fundraiser at his mansion for Republican candidate Mitt  Romney the focus was on the presidential challenger that night but the pizza mogul couldn’t evade the limelight for  Mrg Mr. Schneider’s wholesome image was challenged after a conference call  League curry said quote our best  estimate is that the Obama care will  cost eleven to fourteen cents per pizza  or 15 to 20 cents per order from a  corporate basis if Obamacare is in fact  not repealed will find tactics too shallow at any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost on to consumers in order to protect our  shareholders best interests patrons castigated Mr. Schneider over what they considered a small price to pay for employee health care for the first time Papa John truly fell in favor in the public eye through the company insisted his very direct comments did not actually mean costs were being passed on to customers Mr. Schneider nonetheless remained a  steadfast supporter of Republican candidate Mitt Romney who he continued to fundraise for his comments were supported by the National Restaurant  Association along with several franchise owners who felt similarly threatened by the Affordable Health Care Act this did nothing to placate consumer frustrations of Mr. Snyder’s detractor former adviser Jack trout was especially critical saying it was needless to polarize his customers so heavily Mr.  Schneider tried walking back some of the controversies by proclaiming how cool he thought it was that all Americans had  access to affordable health care through  some calls for a boycott did see a tepid  response the controversy would have likely blown over entirely mr.  Schneider not dig his heels and even  further in the coming months in the wake of President Obama’s re-election  Mr. Schneider warned that his company would need to cut employee hours if the  Affordable Health Care Act did pass once again the public backlash was heated fueling this further exposure of Mr. Schneider’s enormous wealth  Mr. Schneider argued that he had earned  everything he made and that his twenty-two car garage only held four cars he owned a citation 750 jet the fastest civilian aircraft at one point and his properties only grew in number so some argued Mr. Schneider was both publicly and privately charitable donations such as those made to the University of  Kentucky were viewed as self-serving in light of these revelations Mr. Schneider was known to make his employees sign NDA’s regarding his personal life from at least 2013 for years the daily operations of the  company were run by a man named Steve  Richie who Mr. Schneider was made president in 2015 Steve Richie was known for an almost adoring loyalty to Mr. Schneider but his peers found him otherwise  incompetent he resisted bringing problems with the company to Mr. Schneider’s attention for fear of outshining the master as a result Papa  John’s was said to lag behind technologically compared to its peers even in light of its past social media successes consistent with his previous outspoken beliefs Mr. Schneider donated to various  Republican campaigns sued the 2016  election including that hose of Rand Paul  Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump around the same time Mr. Schneider drew the ire of his neighbors and Anchorage Kentucky  a local news article wrote that he had turned part of the town square  land which he owned into a personal helicopter launch pad he became known  or flying in low passes neighbor’s houses to their chagrin even in light  of his philanthropic ventures in the  town he wasn’t immune to at least a  dozen of the retiree residents filing complaints within a year though Mr. Schneider found himself in the cross  fires of yet another public backlash  an autobiography of it Papa John hits  stores in late January of 2017  mr. Schneider told a scintillating story  of how hard work and dedication built  one of America’s favourite Pizza brands  omitting the unsavory behind-the-scenes  details of course around the same time  he complained a business insideto r about the immoral culture of CEO America he  slammed money-hungry tendencies for  giving rich people a bad name of his own  salary he had this to say I pay myself  three three and a half million which is  plenty of money come on I haven’t taken  a raise in probably two three four years  the board gets upset because I won’t  take a raise but I’ve got plenty of  money  this of course would, of course,any  investments Mr. Schneider had but as  salary claims are verifiable by  corporate filings  controversy was brewing that summer over  the past year in football some players  began protesting police violence by  taking a knee during the national anthem  this some mixed reaction though many  applauded players using their position  as a platform for a good cause some  football fans felt alienated by the  politicizing of the sport Mr. Schneider seemed to be at the latter  belief even going so far as to saying it  was hurting pizza sales during a  conference call in late October of 2017  Papa John’s was by now the NFL’s pizza  sponsor for seven years  Mr. Schneider went on to call it bad  management and he thought the situation  had been quote nipped in the bud already  by the end of the day NFL logos have  been removed from all Papa John’s.

Papa John's Pizza
Papa Johns Pizza Huts

Branding at the direction of Mr. Schneider sports blogs were quick to suspect that the owner of the Dallas  Cowboys Jerry Jones go-to Mr. Schneider into pushing the issue the men seemed to be good friends the Cowboys were sponsored by Papa John’s as far back as  2004 with Mr. Jones in turn being the holder of over a hundred franchises Mr. Jones was thought to be a nemesis of NFL  Commissioner Roger Goodell also known as the most powerful man in sports this theory remains speculation but it is true Mr. Jones appeared on a November  2017 radio broadcast praising Mr.  Schneider for his courage and calling him to quotetoo to great American Mr. Schneider thought he had the upper hand against the NFL but by the following Wednesday as the company’s shares fell between eight  and 11 percent  Mr. Schneider went through the same  public grilling us with his Obamacare  scandal two weeks later the company  published an apology on their Twitter  account this message seemed to support  the NFL players and reject neo-nazism  the brand had become associated with the alt-right in wake of Mr. Schneider’s conduct culminating in an endorsement from the infamous white supremacy that daily stormer then in December of 2017  John Schneider formally resigned from his role as CEO Steve Ritchie took his place while Mr. Schneider continued on this company mascot for another six  months  Papa John’s in the NFL formally ended  their partnership in February of 2018 as  a brand Papa John’s continued to be  polarizing then the most dimming thing  yet and Mr. Schneider’s career came to light on July 11th 2018 Forbes reported that Mr. Schneider had used racial  Mrithets in a made 2018 conference call with a laundry service marketing agency he was trying to express how what he had  said pilled in comparison to the  language once used by Colonel Sanders of  KFC ironically this came about in a  role-playing session designed to help  mr. Schneider avoid controversy  following his feud with the NFL bungling  his words he also talked about growing  up in Indiana where lynchings were once  commonplace  Mr. Schneider insists such comments were meant to evoke his own disgust with racism but those listening in on the call were appalled by his apparent tone deafness laundry service ended their business relationship with Papa John’s following the call when the incident came to light two months later Mr. Schneider admitted he made those insensitive remarks and apologized the  Board of Directors moved swiftly to  expel John Schneider from the company  seemingly for good  within days his image was removed from  all Papa John’s branding Steve Ritchie  put out a statement addressing the PR  crisis promising the company was taking  measures to better promote diversity  through an independent adviser but Mr. Schneider did not go down quietly  instead saying laundry service marketing  agency attempted blackmailing him yeah  they tried to extort us and we held firm  and they took what I said they ran to  Forbes and Forbes printed it it went and  went viral leaders and made out the U of  L and the leaders that Papa John’s have  been you know it’s like everybody’s  taken care you know walls are covered  they don’t really it really it’s not a  big deal and that’s been disappointing  because when we got involved two years  ago I made it real clear we’re gonna  play this straight well then play by the  rules we’re gonna put the cards on on  the table and I’m literally gone for two  days and the president’s already playing  games with the media already she never  called me and told me the sound was  coming down I found that she I got a  text after the interview I’ll show you  the text told him he texts me out of the  fax I don’t quite we took the sign off  your stadium  well okay he bashed the Papa John’s management team he left behind turning  against his former favorite Steve  Ritchie not long after he sued Papa John’s for access to documents about his  firing he continued to ride the board  for what he labeled a coup through all  of this he maintained a seat on the  board which he tried using to assert  that he was still somewhat in charge  mr. Schneider went on to talk openly about the previously denied accusations of a toxic work culture at the business pinning the blame on other members of the management team he wrote a 61-page expose revealing the deaths of the board’s debauchery Papa John’s responded by publicly lambasting Mr. Schneider for undermining the new management an internal letter to management read quote  John Schnatter is promoting his self-interest at the expense of all others in an attempt to regain control  John Schnatter is harming the company not helping it as evidenced by the negative impact his comments and actions have had on our business and that of our franchisees they went on to state that Mr. Schneider was not to speak of the kneeling controversy and had ignored this responding to an increasing number of shareholder lawsuits over management blunders Mr. Schneider filed  suit against his old company it was his  opinion that the company should have  done more to protect him Mr. Schneider  also said he should have defied his  deposition his spokesman denied a rumor  that he had privately met with equity  firms to try and buy out his old company meanwhile the company was in the early  stages of trying to sell to a  conglomerate like Wendy’s who could  repair its image it is said that one of the terms outlined by prospective buyers was that Mr. Schneider is kept away a company named starboard value did wind up investing a significant amount of money in the flowing company as it had with the once imperiled Olive Garden the deal went through in February of 2019  and Steve Ritchie tried burying the hatchet with Mr. Schneider by March Mr. Schneider agreed to withdraw lawsuits and resigned from the board of directors it seemed this episode had come to its conclusion Mr. Schneider’s wife of 32 years left him in April of  2019 his divorce was finalized in  December after his ex-wife called their marriage quote irretrievably broken the division of assets was kept out of the public record and mr. Schneider refused to comment on it earlier that year Mr. Schneider try repairing his image by donating 1 million dollars to Simmons  College a historically black institution while some praised his generosity to tractor sawdust and attempt at buying forgiveness in the midst of settling his divorce Mr. Schneider gave the infamous interview which reignited his feud with  Papa John’s after formerly speaking highly of the new management  Mr. Schneider talked evading 40 pizzas and 30 days in noticing a major drop in quality viewers were quick to point out  Mr. Schneider’s dissembled appearance in clips of the interview and viral he again talked about how he felt betrayed by his former colleagues and said the use of the black community as a pawn to  Russell control from him of board members, Olivia, curtly and Mark Shapiro Mr. Schneider believed they quote should  be in jail he ended with this menacing  message stay tuned the day of reckoning  will come the record will be straight  as of 2020 John Schnatter remains an  outsider to Papa John’s  he is currently embroiled in a lawsuit  with laundry service for unspecified  damages meanwhile he has vowed as  challenged for the new decade is to eat  50 pizzas in 30 days he still goes by  the Papa John Schnatter as his handle on  Instagram suggesting he hasn’t fully let  go of this glory days that this story  has no definite end in sight begs the  question of whether the cycle of lashing  out will continue or if he will manage  to move on and truly rebuild


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