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Papa John’s Founder and CEO John Schnatter on Focus and his Hispanic Play

Last week, I shared the 2014 overview of Hispanics at restaurants that we developed for the recent Restaurant Leadership Conference.  Now, we turn to our Trailblazers, a new program we launched in partnership with The NPD Group – and unveiled at the Conference – to recognize chains that are growing their businesses with Hispanics.  We gathered a panel of restaurant experts at Univision and NPD late last year to start the process which was:

  • Create a shortlist of 50+ brands that deserved consideration
  • Whittle down the list to 10 based on NPD research, 2014 Hispanic campaigns and executions and other efforts targeting this consumer segment last year
  • Settle on our first-ever Trailblazer honorees in categories including Digital Trailblazer, Product Innovation (Food and Beverage) and Share Shifter of the Year

You can read more about our honorees here.

At the Restaurant Leadership Conference, we had the honor of sharing the stage with our Newcomer of the Year, Papa John’s CEO and Founder John Schnatter, to learn more about why 2014 was the year the brand upped its investment, how they activated, what the future holds and more.  Their results could motivate any brand to jump head first into Hispanic marketing.  Papa John’s Hispanic dollar sales were up 43% vs. 4% for non-Hispanic and Hispanic traffic was up 18%.  Also, average Hispanic eater check increased almost $1.50 and items per eater moved from 2.07 to 2.25.  Here’s what Schnatter had to say:

Getting Organized to Win:  “We’d been doing really well in Latin America – Chile, Peru, Panama, Costa Rica – so I felt for some time that we could do well with this demographic in the states.  We hired a Director of Hispanic Marketing, North & Latin America and worked with the franchisees across the country to show that this is a demographic on the move and needed to put some money out there to get it rolling.  This past year we started moving the ball down the field.”

Connecting with Hispanics:  “I think we’re a little bit lucky.  Papa John’s is all about bringing friends and family together…and quality.  There’s nothing more important to this population than family, community and neighbors…and Hispanics also have a real appreciation for good quality food.  We haven’t needed to change the concept or product to be Hispanic specific.  We just keep running our play.  Now, we’ve had to learn to communicate in a way that works.  For example, we worked in the Mejores Ingredientes, Mejor Pizza tagline (Better Ingredients, Better Pizza) and we’ll slowly introduce more of their native language to build respect and confidence.”

Getting Over the Fear of the Unknown:  “I don’t know how you can look at the numbers and not invest in this demographic.  I think a lot of companies are afraid to make mistakes.  We thrive on mistakes.  You’re not going to innovate or have new ideas and technologies if you’re afraid.  We really push our team members to be curious and ask ‘why, why, why, why.’  And then learn from your mistakes and move on.”

His Grassroots Play:  “We’re going to do little league tournaments for Hispanics across the country, and then the winners in each district will get to go to play on the real ‘Field of Dreams.’  This is another way we’ll bring families together.”

About his Passion for Winning:  “I think the most important word in the English language is ‘focus.’  I wake up working at Papa John’s and I go to bed thinking Papa John’s…I think you have to have a passion for what you’re doing, be best in your class and have a business model that works.”

About the Future with Hispanics:  “Once you hit momentum you can’t lose it.  I just love this demo.  They share our core values.  They work hard, want to live the American dream, love good food and they’re family.”


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