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11 Better Facts About Papa John's

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Wikimedia Commons // Fair Use

For one, there's a real John behind the Papa. Find out more about John and the pizza empire he created below.


After graduating in three years from Ball State University with a business degree, Schnatter moved home to Jeffersonville, Ind. in 1983 to manage Mick's Lounge, a rundown money-pit of a bar co-owned by his father. He quickly revamped the tired tavern and paid off all the outstanding debts. By the following year, his father had been bought out by Bob Ehringer, the other partner in the bar, but the younger Schnatter had an idea for how the institution could be more than just a biker gang pit stop. Tearing down the wall of a broom closet in the back of Mick’s Lounge, he built an 8-by-10-foot kitchen using just $1600 worth of supplies and started making pizzas. After just a year, Schnatter, Ehringer, and a few additional assistants were selling 3000 to 4000 pizzas a week. They quickly bought a storefront next door and by 1987, the pair sold Mick’s to make Papa John’s their full-time business.


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The dough that Papa John’s uses for their pizza crusts wasn’t made on site at your local outpost. Early in the company’s history, Schnatter decided to mix up the flour and water at a commissary near corporate headquarters in Louisville, Ky. and ship frozen balls of dough around the country twice a week. The founder claimed this allowed the company to keep quality standards high and consistent. But it also makes opening a new Papa John’s location or franchise comparatively cheap as new storefronts don’t need to acquire the mixing equipment or labor to produce dough. In the early ’90s, as the demand for pizza swelled, the company doubled in size nearly ever year. While some franchises now cost nearly $1 million to open, in the ‘90s, a Papa John’s could be purchased for under $100,000. The company now has more than 4700 locations worldwide.


To help his father’s struggling business and raise the initial $1600 for that broom closet kitchen, a young Schnatter sold his beloved 1971½ Chevrolet Camaro Z28. For two decades, Schnatter bemoaned giving up that car, searching for it to no avail, and even hiring an ex-FBI agent at one point to investigate its whereabouts. Schnatter had a replica built, but he still wanted his original car back. Finally, in 2009 Schnatter decided to put his fame to use to find his old Camaro. He made television appearances describing the car—gold with black racing stripes—and offered sizeable rewards for its safe return: First $25,000 and then, when that failed to elicit leads, $250,000.

Then in August 2009, his 26-year-long quest paid off. The Slone family in Indiana remembered buying the car from a young man who was distraught to see it go—but they had since sold it. Fortunately, the man they’d sold it to, Jeff Robinson of Flatwoods, Ky., still had the car. And even though he had made some racing modifications, Robinson was happy to take the quarter million dollars to return it to its original owner.

"Now there's a big old smile on my face, I like the car, I like the way it drives, it's fast," Schnatter told Jalopnik. "My wife's a redneck and she loves a muscle car. On one hand I want to put it back the way it was, and on the other hand I like the way he put it back together."


The pizza chain has tight ties with football around the country. They have the naming rights to the University of Louisville’s Cardinal Stadium. They have a multi-year sponsorship with the National Football League. They’re the official pizza of the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins. And in 2012, Peyton Manning invested in 21 Papa John’s franchises in the Denver area in his first year with the Broncos.

“It’s a smart investment now and will be long after I’m done playing football,” Manning said at the time. Definitely a smart investment, considering quite a number of Broncos fans probably order pizza on Monday nights.

The other kind of football isn’t left out of the Papa John’s corporate consideration, either. In 2013, the company became the Official Pizza Partner with the United Kingdom’s The Football League, as well.


At Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Washington Wizards, D.C. fans wore and waved T-shirts with Lebron James’ number, 23, and the word “crybaby” on the back. The controversial shirts also sported a Papa John’s logo. It seems a Washington D.C.-area franchise made and distributed the mocking tees without approval from the Wizards or Papa John’s corporate office.

"We're as stunned as everybody else who was watching the game," Lori Carabello, director of Cleveland operations for Papa John's, told

The pizza chain made it up to residents of northeastern Ohio with a formal apology, a $10,000 donation to the Cavaliers Youth Fund, and offering 23-cent large, one topping pizzas for a day.


“Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.” It’s simple, definitive, and recognizable. It’s also an implied dig at the competition and their supposed inferior ingredients, inferior pizza. Or at least, that’s how Pizza Hut took it. In the late '90s and early aughts—when Pizza Hut was still much bigger than Papa John’s but was losing business as its rival grew steadily—the two chains waged an on-going advertising battle. Pizza Hut first took Papa John’s to task for the slogan with the Better Business Bureau’s National Ad Division but when that settled with only minimal results, Pizza Hut sued Papa John’s in Dallas Federal District Court for false and misleading advertising in 1998. Pizza Hut won their case, argued in October and November of 1999, but in 2000, Papa John’s won an appeal. And the following year, the Supreme Court declined Pizza Hut’s request to have the case re-tried at the highest level.


Pizza might not be your first thought if you’re vegan, but as long as you leave off the cheese, Papa John’s has you covered. Unlike some other pizza chains, all the Papa John’s crusts are completely vegan so anything meat- and cheese-free is safe. As a bonus, their super-popular garlic dipping sauce is also vegan if you want to add a little extra creaminess.


Papa John’s hasn’t always been forthcoming about what makes their ingredients “better,” but now they’re making it known that the company is committed to cleaning up their menu. How committed? Try $100 million a year. That’s how much it’ll cost to cut artificial ingredients and other additives from the menu, primarily from their eight dipping sauces. They’ve already eliminated MSG from their ranch and trans fat from the garlic sauce, but they have a list of 14 other additives that have to go—things like corn syrup, artificial colors, and various preservatives—by the end of 2016.


Just before the 2015 Grammys, Australian rapper Iggy Azalea sent out a series of tweets complaining that a Papa John’s delivery person had given her personal number out to family members, who were texting and calling the singer.

"Papa John's has taken appropriate disciplinary action with regard to the employee involved. We are reaching out directly to Ms. Azalea and hope to resolve this incident and make it right,” a spokesperson for the company told The Hollywood Reporter. But the kerfuffle likely worked as positive PR for the company. Assuming you’re not a celebrity worth harassing over text messages, the takeaway seems to be that the third-place chain (behind Pizza Hut and Domino’s) is Iggy’s “favorite pizza.”


To celebrate the opening of their 300th UK location this summer, Papa John’s staff organized to set a new Guinness World Record for the most people tossing pizza dough simultaneously. Schnatter himself was on hand, along with 337 other participants, easily toppling the existing record of 278 people.


The founder and CEO of the Papa John’s empire likely doesn’t spend too much of his time in the kitchen these days. But the hands responsible for tossing the original dough and spreading the sauce way back when are now officially insured—for a cool $15.3 million (£10 million). Schnatter took out a policy with syndicates at Lloyd's of London, a firm known for other bespoke insurance deals for celebrities (like a similar hand policy for Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, though his is for a mere $1.6 million), which covers him in the unlikely event that he loses or damages his hands.

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This Just In
Target Expands Its Clothing Options to Fit Kids With Special Needs
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For kids with disabilities and their parents, shopping for clothing isn’t always as easy as picking out cute outfits. Comfort and adaptability often take precedence over style, but with new inclusive clothing options, Target wants to make it so families don’t have to choose one over the other.

As PopSugar reports, the adaptive apparel is part of Target’s existing Cat & Jack clothing line. The collection already includes items made without uncomfortable tags and seams for kids prone to sensory overload. The latest additions to the lineup will be geared toward wearers whose disabilities affect them physically.

Among the 40 new pieces are leggings, hoodies, t-shirts, bodysuits, and winter jackets. To make them easier to wear, Target added features like diaper openings for bigger children, zip-off sleeves, and hidden snap and zip seams near the back, front, and sides. With more ways to put the clothes on and take them off, the hope is that kids and parents will have a less stressful time getting ready in the morning than they would with conventionally tailored apparel.

The new clothing will retail for $5 to $40 when it debuts exclusively online on October 22. You can get a sneak peek at some of the items below.

Adaptive jacket from Target.

Adaptive apparel from Target.

Adaptive apparel from Target.

Adaptive apparel from Target.

[h/t PopSugar]

All images courtesy of Target.

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Pop Culture
How Jimmy Buffett Turned 'Margaritaville' Into a Way of Life
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Few songs have proven as lucrative as “Margaritaville,” a modest 1977 hit by singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett that became an anthem for an entire life philosophy. The track was the springboard for Buffett’s business empire—restaurants, apparel, kitchen appliances, and more—marketing the taking-it-easy message of its tropical print lyrics.

After just a few years of expanding that notion into other ventures, the “Parrot Heads” of Buffett’s fandom began to account for $40 million in annual revenue—and that was before the vacation resorts began popping up.

Jimmy Buffett performs for a crowd
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“Margaritaville,” which turned 40 this year, was never intended to inspire this kind of devotion. It was written after Buffett, as an aspiring musician toiling in Nashville, found himself in Key West, Florida, following a cancelled booking in Miami and marveling at the sea of tourists clogging the beaches.

Like the other songs on his album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, it didn’t receive a lot of radio play. Instead, Buffett began to develop his following by opening up for The Eagles. Even at 30, Buffett was something less than hip—a flip-flopped performer with a genial stage presence that seemed to invite an easygoing vibe among crowds. “Margaritaville,” an anthem to that kind of breezy attitude, peaked at number eight on the Billboard charts in 1977. While that’s impressive for any single, its legacy would quickly evolve beyond the music industry's method for gauging success.

What Buffett realized as he continued to perform and tour throughout the early 1980s is that “Margaritaville” had the ability to sedate audiences. Like a hypnotist, the singer could immediately conjure a specific time and place that listeners wanted to revisit. The lyrics painted a scene of serenity that became a kind of existential vacation for Buffett's fans:

Nibblin' on sponge cake,
Watchin' the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp —
They're beginnin' to boil.

By 1985, Buffett was ready to capitalize on that goodwill. In Key West, he opened a Margaritaville store, which sold hats, shirts, and other ephemera to residents and tourists looking to broadcast their allegiance to his sand-in-toes fantasy. (A portion of the proceeds went to Save the Manatees, a nonprofit organization devoted to animal conservation.) The store also sold the Coconut Telegraph, a kind of propaganda newsletter about all things Buffett and his chill perspective.

When Buffett realized patrons were coming in expecting a bar or food—the song was named after a mixed drink, after all—he opened a cafe adjacent to the store in late 1987. The configuration was ideal, and through the 1990s, Buffett and business partner John Cohlan began erecting Margaritaville locations in Florida, New Orleans, and eventually Las Vegas and New York. All told, more than 21 million people visit a Buffett-inspired hospitality destination every year.

A parrot at Margaritaville welcomes guests
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Margaritaville-branded tequila followed. So, too, did a line of retail foods like hummus, a book of short stories, massive resorts, a Sirius radio channel, and drink blenders. Buffett even wrote a 242-page script for a Margaritaville movie that he had hoped to film in the 1980s. It’s one of the very few Margaritaville projects that has yet to have come to fruition, but it might be hard for Buffett to complain much. In 2015, his entire empire took in $1.5 billion in sales.

As of late, Buffett has signed off on an Orlando resort due to open in 2018, offering “casual luxury” near the boundaries of Walt Disney World. (One in Hollywood, Florida, is already a hit, boasting a 93 percent occupancy rate.) Even for guests that aren’t particularly familiar with his music, “Jimmy Buffett” has become synonymous with comfort and relaxation just as surely as Walt Disney has with family entertainment. The association bodes well for a business that will eventually have to move beyond Buffett’s concert-going loyalists.

Not that he's looking to leave them behind. The 70-year-old Buffett is planning on a series of Margaritaville-themed retirement communities, with the first due to open in Daytona Beach in 2018. More than 10,000 Parrot Heads have already registered, eager to watch the sun set while idling in a frame of mind that Buffett has slowly but surely turned into a reality.


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