(NEXSTAR) – Papa John’s is launching a new brand identity — and that means dropping the apostrophe.
The pizza chain, which formerly used the possessive form of “Papa John’s” for its branding and marketing, will now be known as “Papa Johns” for all customer-facing purposes and written references going forward.
The company itself, Papa John’s International, will not be changing its name, a Papa Johns representative confirmed.
Papa Johns revealed plans for its new identity in a press release issued Tuesday, but did not specifically address the name change or the reasoning behind it. A representative for Papa Johns would only say that removing the apostrophe was “not abnormal” for a longtime brand. (Cicis and Bojangles, too, have dropped their apostrophes in recent years.)
Along with the name change, Papa Johns touted a new logo (apostrophe-free, or course), and a new restaurant layout featuring an open floorplan, a self-service pick-up area, and modular kitchen stations for food prep. The brand is also embracing a new “visual identity” with updated typography, photography, illustrations and a new color palette featuring hues such as “tangy tomato” and “pickled pepperoncini.”
“We are evolving how the Papa Johns experience comes to life across all touchpoints, while remaining true to what got us where we are today and bringing to life our continued aspirations to improve and grow,” said Max Wetzel, Papa Johns’ Chief Commercial Officer, in Tuesday’s press release. “This new experience is both a celebration of our tremendous momentum and a vision to inspire future growth.”
In an interview with Restaurant Business Online, Wetzel commented further on the removal of the apostrophe from “Papa John’s,” again citing other brands that made similar decisions.
‘It’s consistent with a lot of brands as they move over time, they’ve pulled that out to represent the company,” he said.
As noted by the outlet, removing the apostrophe may be yet another way that Papa Johns is distancing itself from founder John Schnatter. Schnatter had stepped down as CEO in 2018 after criticizing the NFL (which Papa John’s had sponsored) for its handling of the national anthem kneeling protests. He later resigned as chairman of the board following controversy over a training exercise he participated in, during which he used the n-word.
Amid the controversy, Papa John’s had removed Schnatter’s image from marketing materials and ended its television campaigns featuring Schnatter, who often delivered the company’s slogan in commercials.
Schnatter also apologized after his use of the slur was made public, though he maintains that his words were taken out of context. Forbes, which broke news of the incident, had reported that Schnatter was “downplaying” his own comments concerning the NFL during the conference call, and at one point had claimed that Colonel Sanders used the n-word to refer to Black people.
John Schnatter issued the following statement.
“Today, Papa John’s announced several changes to the brand and store layout. While brands evolve over time to meet market demand, it’s gratifying to see that most of the concepts we developed over 34 years – including high quality ingredients, customer service, logo colors, slogans, and more – are still supporting the company’s success. I am especially hopeful for the continued success of the franchisees, most of whom I know very well.
“My criticism of company management over the past three years has rested largely on their refusal to admit they were wrong about the false media narrative about me and my legacy, and their failure to maintain a commitment to the principles on which we built the company brand, including consistent product quality with every single pizza made.
“Considering the enduring association of Papa John with the brand, the company’s change to the brand logo today is misplaced. Instead of being obsessed with Papa John and irrelevant changes to the brand logo, the company should become obsessed once again with making quality Papa John’s pizza consistently. Try as they may, they can’t have Papa Johns without Papa John.”