Steve Ritchie, Papa John's
Steve Ritchie has been promoted to CEO of Papa John's.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – With speculation swirling over the reasons behind the founder and CEO John Schnatter stepping down from his chief executive position, Papa John’s International Inc. announced the promotion of Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie to CEO effective Jan. 1, 2018. Schnatter made headlines recently over his criticism of NFL leadership in its handling of national anthem protests by players. The pizza chain is an advertising partner with the NFL and Schnatter publicly attributed the company’s recent sagging sales to NFL’s leadership mishandling the situation.

John Schnatter
John Schnatter, founder and CEO of Papa John's International

Ritchie started his career at Papa John’s as a customer service representative earning $6.00 an hour in 1996. He became a franchisee in 2006 and continued through the corporate ranks until his promotion to chief operating officer in 2014. He was named president of the company in 2015.

"I am humbled to take on this role,” Ritchie said in a statement. "By focusing on our team members, we will deliver the world class experiences our customers deserve. At Papa John’s, any opportunity is achievable if you dedicate yourself to putting your best foot forward every day. I’m certain our future company leaders are delivering pizzas in one of our 5,000 stores around the world right now.”

“I am so proud of Steve – he has excelled at every job he’s ever held at Papa John’s – from being an hourly customer service rep, to a delivery driver, store general manager, director of operations, franchisee and most recently President,” Schnatter said. “With 120,000 Papa John’s corporate and franchise employees, Steve will put the spotlight on our pizza and the most important ingredient – our team members. We couldn’t have a more proven leader to guide Papa John’s through its next stage of growth.”

As CEO, Ritchie will lead global development, facilitate brand marketing, digital and customer experience evolution. Recent hires of Mike Nettles as chief information and digital officer, Brandon Rhoten as chief marketing officer and the addition of a digital-first creative agency of record, laundry service, underpin the brand’s emphasis on digital marketing and technology. But the company’s primary focus will be on its team members.