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Papa John’s to Teach Employees How Not to Act Like Papa John

The pizza chain is requiring employees to attend diversity training

Papa John’s to Teach Employees How Not to Act Like Papa John Photo illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Papa John’s, the pizza chain that’s been bleeding money since its founder, John Schnatter, blamed protesting NFL players for the company’s poor earnings last year, is trying to repair its image by requiring that its employees attend diversity training.

The company stated its intentions in an open letter from CEO Steve Ritchie to staff, franchisees, and customers, according to the Wall Street Journal. “When I became CEO in January, diversity, equity, and inclusion became one of my top priorities,” Ritchie wrote, also claiming that Papa John’s believes in “equity, fairness, respect, and opportunity.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s almost exactly what Starbucks did earlier this year. The coffee company announced all of its staffers would receive mandatory racial bias training after two black customers were mistakenly arrested at a Philadelphia location after a store manager, under the mistaken belief they were loitering, called the police. That incident spurred a nationwide outcry about race relations in the U.S., with some calling for a Starbucks boycott.

For Papa John’s, a company that is trying to distance itself from its increasingly unpredictable former CEO, mandating diversity training among staff is an odd move that looks more like a PR stunt than a sincere effort. Of note: The company isn’t closing stores, as Starbucks did, in order to focus its attention on this training. And while there’s certainly no harm in having employees receive diversity training, it should be noted that the person that needs it most is Schnatter.

Speaking of Schnatter, this week was full of mudslinging between the former CEO and his estranged board of directors. The pizza chain’s founder believes he’s being “silenced” by his own company, so he launched a website called SavePapaJohns.com. It’s directed at franchisees, employees, and press from a man who says he misses his team “very much” and is keeping them all in his “thoughts and prayers.”

The board’s response? A slightly weary, desperate, and to-the-point memo outlining the ways in which “all of our stakeholders want to save Papa John’s from John.”

Papa John’s Mandates Diversity Training as Founder Continues Push for Control [WSJ]

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