Company: Papa John's International Inc.
Year Started: 1984
Start-Up Costs: $1,600
1997 Projections: $840 million
John Schnatter's recipe for success is a textbook case of good business management: Combine a large serving of superior-quality ingredients with the right team of employees, bake until cooked evenly and serve in a straightforward manner.
"What everybody else did was overlook the obvious. Back in 1984, the pizza segment [of the fast-food industry] amounted to about $10 billion. Domino's, Pizza Hut and Little Caesars controlled about $4.5 billion. So there was $5.5 billion that little independents all over the country were getting," says Schnatter, describing how his Louisville, Kentucky-based business grew from the back of his father's tavern into a 1,376-store pizza chain that holds its own with the industry giants.
Schnatter figured if he could develop a system that would produce homestyle-quality pizza, he would achieve success. To do that, his restaurants use better ingredients-high-protein flour, lower-fat cheese and lean meats.
In an industry dominated by billion-dollar players, Papa John's is pulling in $840 million in sales. In 1998, the company will go international with locations in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Canada. The concept has won over Frank Carney, the founder and former owner of Pizza Hut Inc., who owns 48 Papa John's restaurants and plans to open more.