John Schnatter, Founder and CEO of Papa John’s


Feb 10, 2017

John Schnatter, Founder and CEO of Papa John’s International opened the first Papa John’s in 1985. Today, there are around 4,450 Papa John’s outlets in 36 countries and territories around the world.

1) Tell us about the Papa John’s concept. 

Papa John’s concept of only using the highest quality ingredients and 100% fresh dough to create a top quality pizza with a better natural flavour has proved particularly popular. 

2) How and when did you become involved with Papa John’s?

As soon as I was old enough to get a job, I started working. I got my first job in high school at a pizza joint called Rocky's in my hometown of Jeffersonville, Indiana. I started as a dishwasher and worked my way up to making pizzas. That's when I first saw my determination pay off. But I also noticed something else; I noticed there was something local pizza joints could provide that seemed to be missing from national pizza chains – a quality pizza delivered with excellent service right to the customer's door. It was then that I realized my dream was to open my own pizza restaurant.

Later, after I sold my car to save my father’s struggling tavern, I purchased used equipment to make and sell pizza from a converted broom closet in the tavern. The customers loved the pizza so much that I was able to expand by moving into adjoining space in 1984, eventually leading to the opening of the first Papa John's restaurant in 1985. Today, the Papa John’s franchise operates around the world

3)   What was your background prior to joining Papa John’s?

After I finished high school, I went to college at Ball State University and worked at a pizzeria called Greeks. I learned a lot about the pizza business, and my job served to solidify my desire to open my own pizza joint. Once I graduated with my business degree, I returned to Jeffersonville, where I learned my father's business, Mick's Lounge, was struggling. To save my dad's tavern, I sold my prized 1972 Camaro Z28. Once we turned around the struggling business, I decided now was the time to pursue my lifelong dream, and Mick's Lounge was just the place to do it.

4) What are some of the advantages in being a Papa John’s franchisee? 

Papa John's is an established global company known for its better quality pizza around the world, and we are growing!  Becoming a Papa John’s franchisee means you are joining an exciting, rapidly expanding franchise.   Help with store location and fit out is provided by our team of experts, plus assistance with marketing and full training ensures you have every advantage necessary to run your own successful, Papa John’s pizza delivery store.

5)   Who is your ideal franchisee

To become a successful Papa John’s franchisee you need to be motivated, enthusiastic, hard-working and want to be part of a growing team. Exceptional interpersonal and people skills are essential, as you'll be dealing with customers as well as leading your team on a daily basis. In addition to excellent written and spoken communication skills, you'll have to be an organiser with a can-do attitude, someone who gets things done. You'll have to be dedicated and passionate enough to adapt to a proven way of working. Plus you'll need the ability to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in, which means everything from making pizza through to managing staff. 

6) Tell us a little about the market?

Today, the pizza industry is worth around £2 billion in the UK. We currently have around 250 stores in the UK with more opening up all the time.

7)   What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?

From an early age, I always had role models in my life who drilled into me the importance of a strong work ethic and to always focus on what I do best. I grew up watching with admiration as my late father, Robert Schnatter, and my late grandfather, ‘Papaw' Ackerson, handled their business and respective legal careers with fierce determination. No matter how much they sometimes struggled, they never gave up, and that taught me a lot about business and life.

8) What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise? 

Like starting any new business there is a learning curve. However, with franchising, comprehensive training is provided and Papa John’s head office staff are always on-hand to help ensure franchisees get off to a great start.

9)   In your opinion, why do you think that Papa John’s would be a great opportunity for someone?

Papa John’s offers the chance to buy-into a proven business model and become part of a thriving and expanding company. To help prospective franchisees bring our superior quality pizza to even more UK customers we are currently running some exciting incentive schemes. For new stores opening in Wales, The Midlands, North East, The North West and Scotland we are offering a royalty break for stores opening before the end of 2014. To get new franchisees off to a great start we are also supplying some free equipment, plus a contribution towards marketing spend for the store opening launch. These fantastic deals are only available for 2014 and are limited, so first come first served!