The pizza chain has removed founder John Schnatter’s face from its packaging. | Courtesy of Papa John’s

As Papa John’s founder John Schnatter continues to bash the pizza chain’s executive leadership and say he was unfairly ousted in national media, several of the executives remaining at Papa John’s helm have kicked off a listening tour.

The tour will tentatively hit nine cities, including Louisville, where the company is headquartered.

The objective of the tour, according to officials, is to “better understand the concerns front-line team members, local partners and franchisees are facing due to recent issues. Get feedback from team members, partners and community influencers/leaders to inform a path forward to ‘Doing Better.’ ”

Executives including president and CEO Steve Ritchie; Mike Nettles, senior vice president and chief information and digital officer; Victoria Russell, the company’s newly appointed chief of diversity, equity and inclusion; and Shane Hutchin senior vice president of commissary business PJ Food Service are all taking part in the listening tour, according to information provided to Insider Louisville.

The executives already have visited Atlanta (meeting with representatives from sports teams the Falcons and Braves), Los Angeles and Dallas and are headed on Washington, D.C., Detroit and Chicago in August. The tour also is expected to stop in Miami and Houston, but not dates are set.

Papa John’s is expected to share content gathered on the multicity tour through its social media channels. The company first announced the tour via social media on Thursday.

It also recently announced plans to change its packaging and marketing materials to remove Schnatter’s image. The new packaging is in production and being rolled out to stores over time.

Papa John’s also hired a new marketing and creative agency Endeavor Global Marketing, AdAge reported.

After news broke that Schnatter used the N-word, Papa John’s announced that he’d be stepping away from the company where he still served as chairman of the board of directors. The board later adopted a “poison pill” to prevent Schnatter, who is still the majority stakeholder, from taking control of the company after Schnatter said that stepping down was a mistake and he would fight his ousting.

Around the same time, Forbes also printed a story about the “toxic culture” at Papa John’s.

The press surrounding Schnatter resulted in his name being removed from the University of Louisville’s Center for Free Enterprise, as well as the renaming of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium to simply Cardinal Stadium. The city of Jeffersonville also returned a $400,000 gift to Schnatter and took his name down from Nachand Fieldhouse.

This Thursday, Schnatter told CNBC in an interview that he has “no confidence” in Papa John’s existing management and specifically criticized current CEO Ritchie.

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Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]