- Papa John's appointed Rob Lynch as president and CEO, effective immediately, according to a press release. He replaces Steve Ritchie, who served as CEO for the past year and a half.
- Lynch previously served as Arby's president and led the brand's dramatic turnaround, delivering 16 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth and reaching record sales and profits in 2018.
- He also has 20 years of experience with QSRs and consumer packaged goods companies, including positions at Taco Bell, HJ Heinz Company and Procter & Gamble.
Under new leadership, Papa John's is setting up for a dramatic turnaround. Lynch's experience is primarily in marketing, and he joined Arby's as brand president and CMO in 2013. During this time, he developed a new marketing strategy, which included launching the brand's "We Have the Meats" campaign and engaging more with Twitter and popular celebrities, according to AdWeek.
Papa John's is about to launch its own campaign with brand ambassador Shaquille O'Neal, and invested $80 million toward this marketing initiative and franchisee assistance. In March, the company also brought on a new global chief marketing officer, Karlin Linhardt, as part of its brand refresh. Having a CEO with a strong marketing background will be key to ensuring that the company's initiatives are effective and don't fall flat. A lot is riding on Papa John's success, too. Activist investor Starboard Value previously invested $200 million in the company, helping the company settle debt.
The pizza chain will need all the help it can get after several quarters of declining same-store sales following fallout from racist comments made by former CEO and company founder John Schnatter, which led to a marketing nightmare and contributed the chain ending its NFL sponsorship — a breakup Ritchie claimed was mutual. Schnatter also launched his own campaign to try and save his position, lashing out at then CEO Ritchie last August to blame him for the company's problems.
The company has since been distancing itself from Schnatter, spending $5.8 million in 2018 to remove his image from products and packaging, pushing him off the board and pressuring him to sell off his shares, which he has started to do in recent weeks and months. All in all, new leadership could help the company move past the last 12 months and give it the boost it needs to make a successful turnaround.
Papa John's also isn't alone in bringing in new leadership of late. Earlier in August, Yum Brands promoted its COO David Gibbs to CEO following Greg Creed's announced retirement. Pret A Manger, Panera, Smashburger, Texas Roadhouse and Sizzler are under new leadership this year as well. Red Robin also is looking for a new CEO.