Papa John’s offers fresh food and a commitment to the community
Written by Jenny Peterson
Kenyatta Ford-Theodore and Herb Theodore have found sizzling success bringing hot, ready-to-order Papa John’s pizza to New Orleans East residents. The franchise owners opened their first store on Bullard Avenue in New Orleans East in 2010; it was an area where Herb grew up and he wanted to return.
“There wasn’t much in the neighborhood at the time when we opened,” Kenyatta said. The idea to open a Papa John’s franchise came about when the couple found themselves regularly ordering pizzas at a Papa John’s in Baton Rouge when Kenyatta’s job moved there following Hurricane Katrina. “I kept stopping at a Papa John’s location and thought, ‘We should buy stock in this place – every time I go in, they are busy,’” Kenyatta said. “We started doing research about starting one in the New Orleans area, and New Orleans East was the only area available. To us, it was a perfect opportunity.”
The enterprising pair found themselves at the start of a long and intense period of preparation and training. Papa John’s corporate headquarters want franchisees to succeed, so the rigorous training focuses on desire, commitment and fortitude. After lengthy training both off- and on-site at their 6003 Bullard Avenue location, the Theodores opened the doors on December 20, 2010. Their rigorous training proved valuable. “It was an immediate hit,” Kenyatta said. “We were busy as soon as we opened. People started tweeting that we were now open, and it was like a flood.”
The eager New Orleans East community embraced the Papa John’s site wholeheartedly. Just one year later, the Theodores were honored with the Papa John’s Franchise Operators of the Year International Hinkle Award in 2011, given to franchisees who own one to three stores and who exemplify Papa John’s commitment to serving a superior-quality pizza, world-class customer service and outstanding community involvement. The business was so successful that the couple opened another location in New Orleans East on Downman Road in 2012. “We never would have thought it,” Kenyatta said. “Usually people don’t open another store in the same territory.”
Herb serves as the manager of both locations. He is fully involved in the business operations and makes every effort to get to know customers personally. “The people in New Orleans East are incredibly good people. They have been really good to us, and we strive to give them the best pizza and customer service possible,” Herb said. “We would definitely invest again in New Orleans East.” Herb said some of his employees have been at the restaurant since day one. “We get to know our customers; we offer outstanding customer service, and we’re very involved with our stores,” Herb said.
The restaurant sends email blasts to customers notifying them of offers and deals, and it supports local schools and churches with special deals and discounts. “We have fundraiser cards that we give to schools that they sell for $5 each, and they keep the profit. It contains a book of 10 coupons, with offerings such as a free small pizza with a purchase and a buy one, get one free special,” Kenyatta said. “During football season, schools can earn money from it to pay for youth programs.”
The Papa John’s franchise also helps with New Orleans East little league baseball teams. “When they travel out of town, we contract other Papa John’s to donate pizzas,” Kenyatta said. They also donate pizza for New Orleans East’s “Night Out Against Crime” events.
“We have been very successful in New Orleans East, and I hope we can show people and other businesses why they should come back to the area,” Herb said. “Hopefully we have helped set the tone for the future of New Orleans East. It’s back and we are grateful to have helped start that trend.” Both locations continue to see steady business. “Our goal is to win the Papa John’s Hinkle Award again this year,” Herb said.