Papa John's kicks off apology tour with social campaign, inclusion initiatives, brand name feedback

Papa John's officially starts its apology tour after racial scandals have knocked it into infamy / Papa Johns via Twitter

Papa John's, the beleaguered pizza chain, has posted an apology ad, addressing commentary made by founder and former chairman John Schnatter.

The ad, which dropped days after Schnatter launched a truther campaign to take on critics who have bashed him for usage of the n-word in an agency meeting. The spot thanks its patrons for their “anger” as well as their honesty and criticism of the pizza chain, which has been under fire since last NFL season when the excommunicated founder criticized player protests.

Steve Ritchie, who replaced Schnatter earlier in 2018, made a personal statement of his own. In it, he detailed the steps his company was taking to course-correct. Among them: implicit bias training across the company, the launch of a franchise development program for minority owners, and a foundation that will work with local communities to “make a positive impact where our employees live and work.”

Ritchie also took to Twitter to address criticism from some to change the brand’s name altogether.

“I’ve been quiet about it for far too long,” he said. “I’ve been listening along with my team members. I’ve heard their hurt, disappointment and anger, and that of our franchisees, our customers — and those who used to be.

“And now we’re all looking inwards, reclaiming the responsibilities Papa John’s has to our partners, customers and communities. In thinking about what we want the Papa John’s name to stand for moving forward, we’re now going where we should have been all along.”

Ritchie also charged his followers, colleagues and the general public to hold him accountable for the initiatives put in place. The company has had to reset much of its marketing in recent weeks, and has hired Endeavor and its chief marketer, former Uber brand chief Bozoma Saint John to help it rebound.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.