- Papa John's CEO, Steve Ritchie, announced company-wide diversity and inclusion (D&I) training, saying in a letter that the restaurant chain stands for "equity, fairness, respect and opportunity." The letter comes a month after company founder John Schnatter was overheard using the N-word during a media training session, causing public turmoil for Papa John's.
- Ritchie, who has spent 25 years in the pizza business, said that the entire staff will undergo the unconscious bias training program that the company's leadership recently completed. Also, the company is convening an advisory group of nationally recognized D&I specialists to guide its efforts.
- According to Kentucky's Courier-Journal, Papa John's is spending upward of $50 million to stabilize struggling franchisees and fix the public brand. Ritchie is reportedly in a battle over control of the company with Schnatter, who stepped down as board chair after the N-word statement surfaced.
Papa John's is far from the first chain to publicly institute employee process changes in order to win back public opinion. Earlier this year, Starbucks suffered a similar backlash after a manager at one of its Philadelphia stores called the police to remove two black men from the premises while waiting for a third party to arrive for a business meeting. The company publicly announced it too would offer diversity and inclusion training, even going as far as closing stores for half a day to ensure the trainings took place. That reaction was positively viewed by many experts.
Whether company-wide D&I training can undo a company's highly public damage is debatable, as is whether those trainings create long-lasting effects. But employers must address the problem publicly to try to prevent further damage to the brand. Transparency is a key part of ensuring both employees and customers regain trust with the organization.
Increasingly, the public brand is an HR matter. Candidates won't ignore a bad brand. In fact, more than 90% of candidates will conduct a cursory online search before they apply for a job, and if they find one- or two-star ratings, only 34% say they will submit an application. Such challenges have pushed HR more toward marketing than ever before, especially in an internet-first, highly connected environment.