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On June 14th, 2017, members of the Endeavor Louisville Board of Directors and staff toured Papa John’s headquarters located in Louisville, KY. The group was led through the halls of the global pizza giant by Endeavor Louisville board member and Papa John’s founder and CEO, John Schnatter.
As the group trailed Schnatter through the building’s Tuscany-themed corridors, Schnatter’s passion for pizza was transparent. However, his recipe for success included far more than the company’s ripe tomatoes and freshly made dough. Rather, success was attributed to a focused vision, meticulous quality control, and a positive, egalitarian company culture.
Schnatter began selling pizzas out of the back closet of his father’s tavern in 1984. Thirty three years later, Papa John’s has now set-up shop in over 4,700 locations across the globe. The company works tirelessly to ensure consistency and to fulfill their brand promise of “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.” in every location—from Seattle, WA to Bangalore, India. Guaranteeing this consistent vision, however, requires detailed, results-driven quality control.
This quality control includes the near-scientific inspection of over 60,000 pizzas each year. After snaking the group through his office and several departments, Schnatter paused the tour near a few cubicles at the heart of Papa John’s data collection and results measurement center. He directed the group’s attention towards a large computer screen depicting a top-down image of a cheese pizza, which was presumably snapped by a camera at one the restaurant’s 4,700 locations. Schnatter explained how each pizza was measured—including its color, dough thickness, crust width, and cheese-to-sauce ratio—and ultimately rated. Schnatter rewarded locations that produced high-quality pizzas with a personal letter of congratulations, while those that baked low-rating pies were sent a note questioning the mishap.
Papa’s John’s quality control extends far beyond these microscopic pizza inspections, however. Schnatter also ensures consistency and success through dough made and inspected in-house in addition to a limited number of suppliers, ultimately allowing him to personally monitor the pizza making process from start to finish.
Equally important to Schnatter is the health and happiness of his employees. Spending only a few moments each day in his office, he constantly checks-in with various departments and knows all of his team-members by name. All in all, he promotes a positive, egalitarian company culture. The building itself literally manifests the company’s commitment to the well being of its employees, including: a pizza kitchen (equipped with a healthier-option salad bar), a doctor’s office for employees and their families, and a center for “going left”, which supports employees in embracing the unexpected and becoming stronger through it.
The Papa John’s tour was an invaluable opportunity for the Endeavor Louisville board and team to see a passionate entrepreneur at work. Even more, the experience provided many lessons for businesses yearning to achieve great success, including the importance of a focused vision, results-driven quality control, and a positive, rewarding company culture.
“What gets rewarded gets repeated. What gets measured gets done.”
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