- Papa John’s has named its first Chief People Officer, bringing Marvin Boakye on board from petroleum company Andeavor in Texas, according to a company release. He will report to president and CEO Steve Ritchie.
- Boakye has more than 20 years of human resources, change management and culture transformation experiences.
- Boakye will help implement the company’s talent management strategy, including oversight of people operations, compensation and benefits, and learning and development.
What’s notable about this hire is that the company press release specifically highlights Boakye’s experience in change management and culture transformation, two areas of critical need for Papa John’s. The company just wrapped up a tumultuous year in which founder John Schnatter was ousted after his racist comments were reported by Forbes, and after another report surfaced claiming the company has a pervasive sexist culture. The latter report didn’t get nearly as much attention as Schnatter’s very public removal and lingering aftermath, but it details that Ritchie himself was actually implicated as being an enabler of such culture.
Chief people officers are not unusual in the restaurant space. McDonald’s has one, and so does Yum Brands, Domino’s, El Pollo Loco and so on. Boakye’s experience doesn’t include the restaurant industry, so this should be an interesting transition for him in leading a system that is mostly franchised.
And he certainly has his work cut out for him. Papa John’s franchise base has reportedly grown impatient as recovery from the Schnatter fallout has been slow. Shares of Papa John’s moved higher Wednesday, but that was because of rumors of a potential buyer — rumors that are certainly not new for the company.
CNBC reported that the company could add an additional $25 million to $35 million to its brand recovery efforts in Q4. The industry should have a clearer picture of whether or not its investment have paid off during the company’s next earnings report in February. But as it looks right now, it's spent a lot of money for very little progress.
Perhaps with a new CPO, Papa John’s can expedite improvements with an inside-out approach. Boakye’s hire comes months after the company promoted Victoria Russell to Chief of Diversity Equity & Inclusion. The company also embarked upon a “listening tour” with franchisees in nine cities and launched an internal cultural audit by a third-party firm.
Whether or not there is an actual cultural shift remains unclear, but one thing is certain — from the inside, Papa John’s is moving in a better direction.