A slice of the action
With more than 450 stores and counting, pizza franchise Papa John’s has made the adaptations needed to navigate the UK’s Covid-19 pandemic and remain on course for further expansion
For Papa John’s, the secret to success is much the same as that behind making a better pizza, and that is the more you put into something, the more you get out of it! The business was founded in the United States in 1984, and ever since its first Papa John’s pizza was made in a broom closet in Jeffersonville, Indiana, quality has been the principle ingredient at its core. It is that quality that has seen the company grow to more than 5000 locations in 45 countries and territories around the world.
Driven to be the best at making innovative new products and recipes, Papa John’s uses only fresh dough – never frozen – plus the finest, freshest ingredients all coming together to create a better flavor. This all forms part of the company’s ‘Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.’ concept, which continues to prove popular as the business expands across the UK, where it now has more than 450 stores bearing its name.
“Our top-quality pizza definitely sets us apart in the market, as does having the best people in place across all areas of our business, who are all working towards the same shared vision and goal,” begins Papa John’s UK’s Business Development Director, Justin Gilbert. “Our people are our foundation, and it is they who are out there every day, making, baking and delivering to consumers across the nation. Our success is down to the hard work and effort of the whole team, and our investment in – and respect for – our people is directly reflected in our success. Whether it is our head office staff, support teams, franchisees, partners or supply chain staff, our working environment creates an atmosphere where everyone is prepared to give their very best and to work together as part of a collective effort to foster a positive way forwards. That is something that is incredibly motivating and always appreciated.” When it comes to Papa John’s products, ingredients matter and it is those, as well as a passion to create, that make a great pizza. “During my time in the industry, I have really found that there is no great ‘secret’, other than delivering a super product made with high quality ingredients, piping hot and on time, every time,” Justin continues. “Whether it’s our signature sauce, toppings, our original fresh dough, or even the box itself, we invest in our ingredients to ensure that we always provide the finest quality pizza. Having the correct systems and processes in place to deliver consistently and in an efficient manner is also critical, and that’s what we’ve been able to implement company-wide at Papa John’s.”
As Papa John’s continues to expand its reach throughout the UK – searching for the best high street locations – more franchise opportunities become available to prospective franchisees. “We are always looking for new franchise partners,” Justin confirms. “These may be individuals with the passion and ambition to run a multi-unit franchise operation, or an organisation looking to add Papa John’s as a new revenue stream by offering an existing client base a quality food offering. Finding the right partners who share our brand values is important to us and is key to our collective success.
“Running a Papa John’s franchise means that you run your own business, safe in the knowledge that you have one of the world’s largest pizza businesses supporting you every step of the way. Our most successful franchisees are multi-unit operators, which means they can take advantage of economies of scale associated with running multiple stores.”
Anyone interested in taking on a Papa John’s franchise goes through the same basic process. This begins with a one-to-one discussion and a discovery day, with the company recently launching weekly ‘virtual’ discovery meetings online. These sessions are the first step in getting to know the candidate, and for them to get to know Papa John’s. Many have tried Papa John’s and love the product, and these meetings are the chance to learn how the tried and tested franchise concept works in more detail. They are also an opportunity for both parties to ask questions to see if there could be a good fit for the future. For successful candidates who want to go on and run a multi-unit Papa John’s franchise, help is provided with location selection, training and full turn-key opening of stores. As a franchise, the company supplies all of the assistance needed to get a successful Papa John’s up and running.
Today, the company finds itself in the midst of updating its retail stores across the country. “Over the next couple of years, we will re-image all of our Papa John’s outlets in the UK,” Justin states. “The new format is fresh and fun, is designed to appeal to our ever-growing customer base, and is welcoming and tailored to each location, using improved layouts, a modern palette, key words and updated branding.”
As a global brand, consistency of service across all regions makes the company both appreciated and recognized by consumers world-wide. Justin goes on to describe how the differences between markets essentially come down to the competitive nature of each region and consumer buying habits. “We respond to these with small variations in our offering, which might include slight differences to menu choices, tailored to the communities that we serve.
“At Papa John’s, we also benefit greatly from having a flexible and dynamic marketing team, led by Giles Codd, whose job is to respond quickly to changing customer trends in the market. Giles has a big focus on innovation and keeping the brand fresh. This means we have the scope to innovate and move ahead with new product introductions, whilst maintaining our focus on the quality ingredients that make up our ‘old favorites’ and best-selling pizzas.”
Like all businesses in the food industry, Papa John’s UK found itself having to rapidly adapt its activities in 2020, when Covid-19 emerged in the UK and sent the country into a period of lockdown. “We were fortunate in that we were able to continue to support our communities by delivering hot food in line with Government guidelines, and this has allowed us to provide an enormously important service, especially during lockdown,” Justin explains. “We certainly needed to adjust our processes to ensure that our staff and customers remained safe at all times. This has been our absolute priority as a business.
“Among the processes that we implemented was contactless delivery. We removed the facility to pay by cash, and established a delivery only model, and also issued strict hygiene protocols to all franchisees. To protect our staff and customers, our employees observe social distancing while working. During peak times, this requires more pre-preparation, and much work can be done beforehand, which helps. We also found that franchisees have brought staff in earlier in the day, giving them plenty of time to get ready and accommodate all of the above-mentioned measures.”
Looking ahead to what everyone hopes to be a brighter future, Papa John’s UK’s focus is on enabling its growing customer base to access its stores and products, when, where and how they want to, most easily and in significantly more locations across the country. As a result, the company is looking to work with unique business partners across a range of different industries.
“We have been really successful in high street locations, delivering our top-quality pizza to the local community,” Justin adds. “We plan on continuing our growth on the high street, but also to partner with new organisations in unique locations. For example, we already have exceptional partnerships with several leading holiday park operators and sports stadiums. We are open to considering new partnerships that match our brand values, and are looking for a positive investment to add value for an existing customer base by serving Papa John’s pizza.
“Papa John’s is flexible and evaluates opportunities on an individual basis. This may be a new idea being brought to the table, but what we do is focus on the outcome we want and design a concept and offering to deliver that outcome. In this way, in the future, we would like to be seen as one of the biggest and best franchise opportunities in the UK.”