- Papa John's named Amanda Clark its chief development officer on Monday, according to a company release. Clark will be tasked with leading the company's strategy to continue expanding both its North American and international footprint.
- Clark will also oversee franchise development and sales, building design and new concepts and the programs and personnel that provide facilities support.
- She most recently served as EVP of restaurant experience at Taco Bell, overseeing the design, consumer-facing technology, merchandising, customer marketing, new concepts and development at that chain's 7,000 restaurants.
Clark is the latest addition in a busy year and a half of new C-suite level executive hires at the beleaguered Papa John's chain. This has also included a chief people and diversity officer, a chief commercial and marketing officer, a COO and a new CEO in Rob Lynch. The search for a new CFO is also underway.
With a nearly clean slate in the C-suite and a new spokesperson and board member in Shaquille O'Neal, Papa John's is making a clear statement that it is fully moving on from the drama that befell the company after founder John Schnatter's much-publicized ouster in the summer of 2018. That incident kicked off a lingering firestorm that included lawsuits and a massive turnaround effort facilitated by an $80 million marketing and franchisee investment.
Clark's obligation will be to ensure the company's growth plans continue forward, which is a tall order considering how much the chain sputtered after the controversy. Restaurant Business reported that Papa John's closed 104 domestic units and lost nearly $51 million in 2018.
Still, Clark will be working on the upside of some momentum for the company, including reaching its first quarter of same-store sales growth in eight quarters during Q3 2019.
During its Q3 2019 earnings call, CEO Rob Lynch said the company will focus on opening profitable restaurants by improving unit-economics, developing a more efficient international supply chain and exploring ways to reduce construction costs.
Clark's experience from working at Taco Bell should provide a major boost to this plan, especially since the fast food chain's 7,000 locations tower over Papa John's 3,200 units. Taco Bell ranks high for digital prowess, so Clark's experience will also help as Papa John's looks to gain lost ground to tech-savvy market leader Domino's.
In a statement, Clark said she believes Papa John's is "on a path to be one of the great brand turnaround stories," and no doubt her role will play into whether or not such a story comes to fruition.