LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Papa John’s International Inc. posted a loss for the third quarter of 2018 reflecting the impact of negative publicity and public sentiment surrounding the company’s conflict with Papa John’s co-founder John Schnatter, who was ousted from the company earlier in the year.

For the third quarter ended Sept. 30, Papa John’s reported total revenue of $364,007,000, down from $431,709,000 reported in the third quarter of 2017.

The company reported a loss of $13,033,000 for the third quarter this year, compared with a profit of 21,817,000 posted in 2017.

System-wide North America comparable sales plunged 9.8 percent. International comparable sales retreated 3.3 percent.

“Our third-quarter results continue to reflect the brand challenges we have faced this year and were exacerbated by the negative impact of the media coverage that began on July 11,” Steve Ritchie, president and CEO of Papa John’s told analysts during an earnings call. “However, these events are not going to define the future of Papa John’s.”

Efforts to repair the company’s reputation include the launch of the company’s Voices of Papa John’s campaign, which Richie said showcased “…that Papa John’s is made up of a team of 120,000 corporate and franchise team members.”

Richie said the feedback from the campaign has been positive among employees, franchisees and customers.

“YouGov BrandIndex data shows that consumer sentiment is shifting from largely negative to neutral or positive,” he noted. “In addition, we have seen sentiment in traditional and social media shift from negative to neutral or positive.

“According to research conducted by Kantar Millward Brown, a leading marketing research firm, the messaging of the Voices campaign has been a key contributor of these perception moves,” Richie added. “The Voices campaign drove a modest improvement in traffic, resulting in September comps that improved compared to the July and August results.”

Papa John’s outlook for the remainder of 2018 includes adjusted diluted earnings per share of $1.30 to $1.60 for the year, excluding the impact of restaurant divestitures and special charges. The company raised its guidance for North America comparable sales, which now are expected to be in a range of -6.5 percent to -8.5 percent. The company’s previous guidance was in a range of -7 percent to -10 percent.

Richie said that while the company is pleased with actions taken to recover from negative publicity, stakeholders remain focused on five priorities — making people a priority, improving brand differentiation, creating accessible value, implementing technological advancements and improving unit economics.

“As we enter the fourth quarter, we are pleased with the quick actions we’ve taken, and the progress being made against a tough environment and unique challenges,” Richie said. “At the same time, we have not lost focus on our need to continue executing on the company’s five operating priorities, which we launched prior to recent events, which we believe are fundamental to supporting a strong foundation.”