LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Papa John's International is going deep with its newest pizza.
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The nation's third-largest pizza chain Friday announced a rollout of a deep-dish pizza — which Papa John's is backing with its biggest marketing campaign ever. It represents the first new crust in the company's menu lineup since debuting its thin-crust pie a decade ago.
Louisville-based Papa John's hopes the new Papa's Perfect Pan pizza will add to its recent momentum after shaking off a slump. The company — with 3,000 restaurants globally, predominantly delivery and carryout — has registered nine straight months of same-store sales growth.
Nigel Travis, the company's president and chief executive officer, calls it "the largest and most significant new product rollout in our company's history."
He said the deep-pan pizza will offer customers more variety that they crave.
"This gives us more opportunity to give consumers not only a selection of crusts, but a selection of sauces and a selection of toppings," said Travis, who took over daily operations in April from company founder John Schnatter, who remains company chairman and brand spokesman.
Schnatter added, "In the past, consumers who love Papa John's ... had to go elsewhere when they wanted a pan pizza. No more."
When ordering the company's signature The Works pie — loaded with seven toppings — the new pizza weighs in at 47 1/2 ounces, or 2 1/2 ounces more than the same original crust pie. Even its shape is different — the deep-pan pie is Papa John's first square pizza.
The new pizza features a thick, buttery crust made with olive oil and a zesty sauce with chunks of tomato and flavored with garlic, Italian herbs and spices.
Travis said Papa John's timed the deep-dish rollout to coincide with football season, when sales spike during weekends.
Papa John's will back the new pizza with an advertising blitz featuring Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino.
"We are the No. 3 player, so we can't spend as much as some of our competition," Travis said. "But we're going to spend a lot of money on advertising."
Papa John's biggest rivals — Pizza Hut and Domino's — already feature deep-dish pizzas.
Travis said the new pizza was part of his pledge to have an 18-month pipeline of new products. Papa John's also is debuting a garlic parmesan breadstick.
Sidoti & Co. restaurant industry analyst Mark Smith said the deep pan offering should be a winner for Papa John's. "This will continue to boost their sales, and I think they can gain more market share," he said.
The new pizza was tested in several markets with favorable results, Travis said. He said the pan pizza fits in with Papa John's long-term strategy in the fiercely competitive pizza market.
"There's two ways of being competitive," he said. "You can either do it on price, or you can do it by giving consumers variety and something new. We're going to focus very much on the variety sector, because we think that fits more closely to our quality image."
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