By: John Schnatter
For 12 of the past 14 years, Papa John’s has received the prestigious ACSI Customer Satisfaction Award. This award recognizes the highest quality products and services available in the U.S.A. and defines excellence in the restaurant industry. This humbling accomplishment inspired me to reflect on what it is that sets Papa John’s apart; what defines our pizza’s great taste; and what exactly makes our product UNIQUELY “Papa John’s.”
Most companies set goals, some companies set standards, but Papa John’s sets the bar. Let me explain:
I’ve always been intrigued by business. In 1984, this curiosity blossomed into making pizzas from a broom closet in the back of my Daddy’s tavern in Jeffersonville, Indiana. With an entrepreneurial spirit and the luck of growing up in America, where mankind’s greatest discoveries are free markets and individual property rights and the voluntary exchange of goods reward business owners, I spent the first ten years outside the broom closet entrenched in the ebbs and flows of a fast-growing pizza business. Always seeking to improve our pizza, my curiosity got the best of me and I embarked on a journey across the country – and eventually around the world – that laid the foundation for the better ingredients that make our ‘better’ pizza.
Over the last 14 years, mostly through trial and error blended with my evolving curiosity, I’ve learned about climates, soil and the various processes from which better pizza ingredients are grown. I have many memories about how Papa John’s came to the better ingredients we proudly market today. For example, we tried using tomatoes grown in Portugal for our unique sauce, but we didn't feel the crops were as flavorful as those produced in the fertile central valley of California. Today, 100% of our fresh-packed tomato sauce comes from this great central valley and is distributed worldwide to 34 countries! At one time our suppliers tried growing pepperoncinis in the United States but, again, we didn’t believe they were as good as those grown in the Mediterranean regions of Greece and Turkey. Also, we originally used canned mushrooms but found that our freshly sliced proprietary baby portabellas were simply better. There are countless stories of how our better-tasting ingredients have evolved based on what we’ve learned about the unique characteristics and growing conditions of different geographies around the world.
Notwithstanding geography, climate, curiosity or simple ambition, the single most important element of Papa John’s Better Ingredients, Better Pizza promise, is passion. Our global team works every day to exceed previous levels of quality, sourcing, and specifications. This unbridled passion drives what I truly believe to be Papa John’s noticeably better pizza – both in terms of quality and taste.
Since I founded Papa John’s, what I’ve found to be true in nearly every case regarding quality is that, “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” Higher quality products almost always cost more money. At Papa John’s, we spend millions of additional dollars every year to ensure high quality ingredients that meet the criteria to make our pizza UNIQUELY, “Papa John’s.” Our high-protein, unbleached flour costs more than other types of flour. Our fresh-packed sauce is more expensive to produce than sauce made from remanufactured paste. There is added cost to use real sausage and beef that you can actually call “sausage” and “beef.” Whether it’s these Papa John’s “extras,” or any other unique elements like fresh vegetables sliced in our stores, white-on-white boxes that protect our great tasting pizza from unwanted brown “cardboard-taste” packaging, or even our signature garlic sauce and peperoncini that comes with every pizza—it’s all more expensive. But, these expenses make the taste of our pizza UNIQUELY “Papa John’s.”
In the spirit of getting better, I think that it’s important to put our money where our mouth is not only when it comes to quality and taste, but also as it relates to time, money and resources that we dedicate to making our recipes better. Over the past 14 years, we’ve significantly decreased fillers, additives, preservatives and artificial colors and flavors in our ingredients. Of course, there are traces, still, in some, partly because it’s necessary to maintain food safety, quality and consistency.
One example is our cheese, 90% of which is made in one plant and distributed worldwide. We add a small amount of preservatives to keep the cheese fresh. Another example is our banana peppers. While few of our products have any trace of artificial color, we add a touch of color to our peppers simply because it maintains the bright yellow color.
At Papa John’s, we take every element of every recipe seriously. That’s why we consistently win prestigious awards, such as the ACSI Customer Satisfaction Award and many others that fuel our passion to make better pizzas. For 30 years we’ve been passionate about making our great tasting pizza UNIQUELY “Papa John’s”, and we’re unwavering about our commitment to using high quality ingredients in all of our products. It’s what we thrive on. It’s our focus.
Here is additional information about the quality ingredients that make our pizza UNIQUELY “Papa John’s.”
Our Dough …
At the foundation of our original pizza is our fresh, never frozen dough. Our original proprietary dough comes to our stores fresh from our dedicated quality control centers where it’s made. We store it in coolers in the stores for just the right amount of time to let it proof and rise. When the dough is ready to use, we hand-toss it to order. We don’t add “dough-conditioners” like sodium stearoyl lactylate or mono and diglycerides. What we use is our own proprietary flour. Its high-protein, unbleached wheat flour made with purified water gives Papa John’s original pizza dough its unique balance of flavor and its chewy, crisp crust.
Our Sauce …
Papa John’s UNIQUE sauce is fresh-packed for our stores worldwide at two facilities in the fertile valley of California, which produces some of the most robust flavorful tomatoes in the world. These facilities incent their growers to produce higher quality tomatoes by paying a premium for certain attributes that we’ve determined to be important to make our sauce taste better. The tomato products in both of these facilities are packed from fresh tomatoes -- about six hours from the time they are picked. Our fresh-packed sauce is not re-manufactured from tomato paste. Further, our sauce is minimally heated to retain maximum flavor, as opposed to re-manufactured sauces that are subjected to more flavor-damaging heat. To further protect the quality of Papa John’s sauce, we pack and ship it in a more expensive #10 steel can (versus packing it in plastic pouches). I believe Papa John’s fresh-pack can process protects the flavor of our authentic, real tomato, tomato sauce.
We do not use high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, or artificial flavors in our sauce—we do use fresh-packed tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, some sunflower oil, spices, and a little salt and sugar. I really believe it’s the next best thing to actually making the sauce in our stores!
Our Meats …
We spend a lot of time and money ensuring that the meats that go on our pizzas truly are “better.” Our sausage and beef contain no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives or bulking agents like TVPs or cornstarch, which is why we can say “real sausage” and “real beef,” not sausage “topping” or beef “topping,” which indicate the use of fillers. Our 100% all-white chicken breast is free of artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, made with our proprietary marinade of spices and some soy protein, like that found in many high-protein health bars.
Our Cheese …
The primary cheese on Papa John’s Pizzas is crafted from 100% Mozzarella and made with high-quality skim milk. Our six-blend cheese combination is made with five additional 100% aged Wisconsin cheeses, including Parmesan, Romano, Asiago, Provolone and Fontina. Our cheeses have a minimal amount of preservatives to maintain freshness and to ensure consistency and quality across our many restaurants.
Our green peppers, onions and Roma tomatoes are shipped multiple times per week from our distribution centers. We take the time to ship frequently every week to ensure our vegetables arrive at our stores as fresh as is possible. All of our vegetables are hand-sliced daily in each of our restaurants, with the exception of our Portabello mushrooms that arrive at our stores pre-sliced. All of our vegetables arrive fresh; they are never frozen or vacuum packed.
Special to Papa John’s, too, is our olives. Ninety percent of our olives are grown in Spain’s famous Herrera-area groves that consistently produce superior-quality, Fancy-grade olives. Our supplier in Spain is the first producer of both ripe and green olives in the world to be awarded the ISO 9002 Quality Certification.
Our Box …
At Papa John’s we invest millions of dollars annually to provide our unique white-on-white box that helps to protect our pizza from the taste of brown cardboard packaging. Our boxes are more expensive to make because we believe it’s critical to have this important guard between our great-tasting pizza and the box that surrounds it. Papa John’s unique box is just another way to ensure our pizza tastes great.
In summary, I am proud of our pizza and our people who make it. I am prouder, still, of our country, and the opportunity it has afforded me, my family, Papa John’s team members, and countless others to start and grow a business from little more than a dream. Whether you start from a broom closet, like I did, or have found opportunity in your own way, we are indeed fortunate to have the ability to explore, pursue and succeed through our country’s free market and voluntary exchange of goods.
That's the Foundation of the Papa John's story.
To all of our Papa John’s customers and to our potential future customers, I thank you for your business. If you’re new to our brand and you’ve not experienced what makes our pizza UNIQUELY “Papa John’s,” don’t simply take my word for it -- I encourage you to try one for yourself. You be the judge—I really believe you will taste what makes Papa John’s pizza UNIQUELY “Papa John’s.”
Founder John Schnatter