lo-res_48134-sWhen Papa John’s got started in 1984, it sold a single crust style: hand-tossed. That version is generally what the brand is known for, though it also sells a thin crust version. But its attempts at deep dish or pan pizza styles have been minimal and unsuccessful thus far. Accordingly, its current rollout of pan pizza represents the biggest new product launch by the brand in decades, as well as “the most rigorous, deliberative new product development process that we’ve been through.”

Although Papa John’s tried to add a pan pizza to its menu in 2005, that expansion failed, seemingly because consumers did not like the square shape or find the thicker crust particularly tasty. Therefore, before entering the market with the latest iteration, Papa John’s undertook extensive product testing. The resulting pie is round, like all other pizzas that it sells, but it comes packaged in a distinctive, black pizza box. Furthermore, Papa John’s altered the type of dough used, and it switched to a thicker sauce, to ensure that all the elements of the resulting pan pizza worked well together.

Next it needed to figure out how to adjust the last step in the supply chain so that customers would get a properly prepared pan pizza every time they tried it. The corporate owner required some franchisees to insert an additional oven in their stores to handle demand for these pizzas, which cook for different times and at a different temperature than the traditional hand-tossed pies do. Test runs in select cities, including Denver, Houston, and Louisville, Kentucky (the company’s hometown), suggest that the deeper crust will outsell the thin crust versions, though the famous hand-tossed style is predicted to remain the biggest seller.

To encourage more widespread trial, Papa John’s will be offering a price point of $10 for a three-topping pan pizza. It also has solicited the help of Peyton Manning to star in commercials announcing its arrival. On the basis of these detailed analyses and careful planning, Papa John’s appears confident that this time around, pan pizza will spin out success.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why did Papa John’s previous experiment with pan pizza fail?
  2. Does this latest introduction address those causes of failure? How?

Source: Jessica Wohl, “Papa John’s Aims at Rivals with Pan Pizza, Its Biggest New Product in Years,” Advertising Age, October 10, 2016