A change of course was something that Papa John’s was seeking when it promoted Steve Ritchie to the position of CEO in December 2017. That was something that he helped to deliver during his 20 months at the helm of the popular pizza restaurant chain.
When he took on the role of CEO, Steve Ritchie had already spent 21 years with the company. He had started as an hourly team member with his local Papa John’s pizzeria in Kentucky when he was in high school. He proceeded quickly on to become a franchisee and, over the years, worked his way up within the company.
The CEO role was one that he took on with a determination to change the company culture. Steve Ritchie knew that there were ways to improve the popular pizza restaurant chain, and he set about to accomplish them.
One of the major issues that he sought to tackle was that of diversity. He brought in experts to conduct an independent audit of the company’s policies and practices in this regard. The goal was to gain a fresh perspective.
Steve Ritchie also implemented mandatory diversity and unconscious bias training for employees. That started with management and was rolled out to the restaurant of the team afterwards. This step was similar to one that coffee restaurant chain Starbucks had taken.
He also made the move to encourage more diverse voices to be heard. TO that end, the television ad campaign “Voices” was launched. It featured the real faces and voices behind the brand- giving the chance for regular employees to be heard. The campaign highlighted that the restaurant chain is made up of a diverse range of people, and that they are what help make the company what it is.
Attracting and retaining talent requires, in part, being a more attractive employment option than one’s competitors. In order to help the company differentiate itself from other employers in the industry, Steve Ritchie arranged for a partnership with Purdue University Global to launch a tuition reimbursement program for employees. Under it, employees will receive 100 percent reimbursement of tuition for online undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
Steve Ritchie also sought for the company to connect more with customers- and to reward loyalty. He rolled out a new rewards program that allows for people to attain points five times faster than the previous program and to be able to do so on any order no matter whether it was made in-store, by phone, via website, or through the mobile app.
Another step that Steve Ritchie took to shake things up was by partnering with Shaquille O’Neal to serve as brand ambassador. He was chosen, because Steve Ritchie believed that he was a good choice for building lasting connections with customers and also would serve to energize employees.
In addition to signing on to represent the brand, Shaquille O’Neal also gained a seat on the board, and he added “Papa John’s franchisee” to his involvement as well. He took on nine Atlanta area pizzerias as part of his portfolio, which already included a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts franchise and a a fast fried chicken restaurant named Big Chicken that he founded.
With those changes, and others, Steve Ritchie helped to provide a sturdier foundation from which Papa John’s could operate and continue to grow into the future. This shoring up of the brand helped to set the stage for the next person who would take the reins as CEO. On August 27, it was announced that Rob Lynch would be taking on the task of continuing the transformation Steve Ritchie had started.