History of Papa John’s Pizza

Papa John’s is the fourth largest pizza delivery chain in the United States. It has over 5,199 branches with 4,456 of them are franchised restaurants that are operating domestically in 50 States and in 44 countries worldwide. And when they opened their 4,000th store in New Hyde Park, New York, the company gave away 4,000 free pizzas throughout New York City. But aside from their delicious pizza, the company is also known for their controversies. Let’s get to know more about this pizza company and all the controversy that it went through.


Papa John’s story started when it was founded in 1984 by “Papa” John Schnatter transformed a broom closet in the back of his dad’s tavern in Jeffersonville, Indiana into a room to make pizza. To purchase equipment in making pizzas, he sold his 1971 Camaro ZS8. He then began selling pizzas to the customers of his dad’s tavern and when his pizzas became sufficiently popular, he purchased his own place adjoining his dad’s tavern. And along with his new store, Papa John’s invented the dipping sauce that is made especially for pizza and it has been one of Papa John’s trademark since then.

In 1993, Papa John’s went public and just a year after that, the company had over 500 stores. And four years after that, Papa John’s had opened a total of 1,500 stores. With the success of his company, John Schnattner was able to reacquire the Camaro ZS8 he sold to start of his pizza business.

In 2016, Papa John’s was able to become the third-largest take-out and pizza delivery pizza chain in the U.S.

Papa John’s Sponsorships

Papa John’s signed a contract with ESPN Regional Television to become the title sponsor of the annual PapaJohns.com Bowl in 2006. It is a college post-season football bowl game that was held in Birmingham, Alabama. Papa John’s sponsored the even until 2010.

And on 2010, Papa John’s signed an agreement with the National Football League and Super Bowls XLV, XLVI and XLVII to be their official pizza sponsor. And a year after that, Papa John’s also became the official pizza sponsor of the National Football League in Mexico, Canada, and United Kingdom.


Papa John’s founder, then-CEO and chairman John Schnatter was the reason why the pizzeria encountered a handful of controversies. It all began with his statement during the company’s conference call where he blames the National Football League’s handling of its player’s National Anthem protests for the declining sales of his pizzas. Papa John’s had been the official pizza sponsor of the National Football League since 2010 and their shares dropped as much as thirteen percent after Schnatter’s statement was reported. After that, John Schnatter also lost his CEO title and the company’s franchise sales dropped to an estimated five percent. Papa John’s also stepped down as the official pizza for the NFL and Pizza Hut took over the sponsorship.

But Forbes later learned that Schnatter had used the N-word and other controversial remarks on another conference call two months prior to the NFL call. On the other end of the call was Papa John’s marketing agency of record, Laundry Service. And the company broke away from Papa John’s because of Schnatter’s use of the slur. On the day the news broke, John Schnatter resigned as the chairman of the board of Papa John’s. But Papa John’s problems ran deeper because based on the interviews done with 37 current and former Papa John’s employees which included executives and board members, showed Schnatter’s alleged behavior rangers from spying on his employees to sexually inappropriate conduct.

Fun Facts About Papa John’s

  • John paid 250,000 dollars to buy back his Camaro.
  • Singer Iggy Azalea said that Papa John’s used to be her favorite pizza but it all went down when a Papa John’s pizza delivery guy gave away her personal phone number out to family members who bombarded the singer with calls and texts.
  • The football stadium at the University of Louisville was named Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium after John Schnatter personally donated 5 million dollars for the rights. But in 2018, the name Papa John’s was taken off the stadium after Schnatter resigned from the company.