Following the departure of Marvin Boakye in early November 2022, Papa Johns named Elias Reyna as its new chief people and diversity officer.
Reyna, who started Nov. 28, will oversee recruiting, management, compensation and benefits, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion strategy for the pizza brand.
As chief diversity officer, Boakye navigated a sticky time in Papa Johns’ DEI history. Six months before he started, Papa Johns’ founder John Schnatter resigned due to backlash around his use of the “N” word on a call between Papa Johns’ C-suite and an external PR team.
In summer 2018, Forbes detailed Papa Johns’ toxic workplace culture. The story, in which employees alleged gender-based and sexual harassment, was the byproduct of interviews with more than three dozen then-current and former board members and executives.
Following the story, a spokesperson told Forbes that a special board of directors committee would audit Papa Johns’ company culture “and make recommendations for whatever changes may be necessary.” Archived versions of the senior leadership page in June, July and August 2018 indicated that, during this time, Papa Johns did not have a chief diversity officer listed.
With Boakye in the C-suite, diversity, equity and inclusion became a more apparent part of the pizza company’s goals. Its public strategic DEI goals include embedding policies that ensure fairness, build trust and hold leadership accountable; rewarding behaviors that foster belonging or improve employee engagement, and diversifying the leadership pipeline by “attracting, recruiting, developing and supporting talent” representative of the company’s customers.
Some of the company’s programs, per its diversity statement, include cooking up and serving unconscious bias training at HQ as well as providing those materials for franchise owners.
Additionally, the DEI team rolled out LGBTQ-inclusive benefits — a move that earned Papa Johns a spot on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for 2021. ERGs for Asian-American and Pacific Islander talent, as well as talent with disabilities, joined Papa John’s roster, alongside African-American, Latino-Hispanic, LGBTQ+, multi-generational and veteran ERGs.
“We have a great opportunity to build upon the commitments we have made in recent years, that have helped transform our business and chart our path for future growth,” Reyna told HR Dive via email. The first, he said, is Papa Johns’ commitment to culture and DEI — mainly, diversifying the workforce.
He added, “We must grow our commitment to our own growth, evolution and transformation. We are constantly hungry for better. Real change happens when we trust the process and learn from both our wins and mistakes.”
Prior to taking on this role, Reyna was Papa Johns’ VP of human resources and people services, and was a people operations lead at the company’s secondary headquarters.
In a press release, President and CEO Rob Lynch said Reyna was an exceptional culture fit and highlighted his experience with and existing relationships within Papa Johns’ workplace culture. “Elias couldn’t be a better culture fit for Papa Johns as he is a model of our core values. His proven leadership experience in our company and his existing relationships with our teams will make him a great asset in this role,” said Lynch. “I’m proud that Elias will be the first Latino leader to join our Executive Leadership Team.”
Regarding his milestone as the first Latino officer in the C-suite, Reyna said, “Based on my previous experience at Papa Johns, [I] have known it to be a place that valued diversity at all levels. I’m proud to build upon the diversity of existing leadership.”