Papa Track allows customers to track their pizza orders. | Courtesy of Papa John’s

Papa John’s is morphing into an e-commerce company, the pizza chain’s new chief marketing officer declared Wednesday morning.

The Louisville-based company recently announced that 60 percent of its U.S. sales are made digitally through its website, mobile application or its new Facebook instant ordering system.

“We have to step up and act like an e-commerce company and advertise like an e-commerce company,” Papa John’s CMO Brandon Rhoten told analysts during the company’s second-quarter earning call.

Rhoten said Papa John’s will continue to push itself as the “better pizza choice” in marketing campaigns, but the company is taking a hard look at where it’s investing its marketing money.

“When we put a dollar in, how much do we get back?” he said.

In June, the American Customer Satisfaction Index released its annual consumer survey of chain restaurants and Papa John’s ranked first among quick-service pizza chains.

But Rhoten said Papa John’s needs to continue to build equity with consumers.

“For us, it’s striking that balance” between quality and value, he said. “The wonderful thing about 2017 is the media landscape is so broad and so diverse.”

Today, companies can more precisely focus different messages to different people, be it Papa John’s “better ingredients” or the value of paying more than its competitors.

Papa John’s can target those messages because it is able to collect more information than ever on customer habits, particularly through its Papa Rewards program.

The company can see how often customers are buying pizza, what they are buying and how they are buying it. Such insights allow Papa John’s operations team to make adjustments to “deliver a better pizza experience,” said Mike Nettles, Papa John’s chief information and digital officer.

The chain’s Papa Track pizza tracker allows its operations teams to see if stores are meeting the estimated delivery times, as well as helps the customer follow their pizza from order to delivery.

“Papa Tracker was designed not only to give our customers some predictability on when they will get to eat their delicious pizzas but also some transparency,” Nettles said.

He didn’t say whether customers could expect any new technology to debut this year.

Papa John’s reported Tuesday night that same-store sales rose 1.4 percent at its North American locations and 3.9 percent at international stores during the second quarter of 2017.

Its net income increased 6.7 percent, to $51.9 million, during the first six months of 2017, compared to the same period a year ago. Diluted earnings per share jumped 10.1 percent, to $1.42 per share, during the first half of the year.

Papa John’s was trading at $80.06 per share, up 12.55 percent, as of 11:20 a.m.

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]