LOUISVILLE, KY. — John H. Schnatter may be gone from Papa John’s International, Inc., but the disgraced founder continues to haunt the pizza chain. In July, the company formed a special committee of the board of directors that terminated Mr. Schnatter’s founder agreement as the face of the brand after news surfaced that he used a racial slur during a May conference call.
In the months that followed, sales have suffered, and the company has invested heavily to restore consumer sentiment.
In the third quarter ended Sept. 30, Papa John’s posted a loss of $13,033,000, which compared with net income of $21,817,000 in the prior-year period. Excluding special charges, adjusted net income was $6,237,000, or 20c per diluted share, down from $21,817,000, or 60c. The special charges in the recent period included re-imaging costs and costs to replace or write off certain branded assets, financial assistance to domestic franchisees related to closings, and costs associated with a third-party audit of culture at Papa John’s and costs associated with implementing new policies and procedures to address findings as a result of the audit.
Revenues totaled $364,007,000, down 16% from $431,709,000.
Systemwide North America comparable sales declined 10% from the comparable quarter. International comparable sales decreased 3.3%.
“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,” said Steve M. Ritchie, president and chief executive officer, during a Nov. 6 earnings call with investment analysts. “However, these events are not going to define the future of Papa John’s. During the quarter, we took important actions to help repair our brand reputation, and we believe good progress has been made. Our performance shows the positive impact from these efforts with improved consumer sentiment, third-quarter comp sales coming in better than our expectations, cash flows remaining strong and an improvement in North America comp sales outlook for the remainder of the year. As we continue working to rebuild trust, sustained consistent improvements and sales performance will take time.”
Management is forecasting special charges related to the recent events to be in a range of $50 million to $60 million for the full year, up from a preliminary estimate of $30 million to $50 million. Excluding special charges, adjusted diluted earnings per share are expected to be in the range of $1.30 to $1.60.
“North America comp sales for the year are expected to be in the range of negative 6.5% to negative 8.5%, which is an improvement from our previous guidance of negative 7% to negative 10%,” said Joseph H. Smith, senior vice-president and chief financial officer. “International comp sales are expected to be in a range of negative 2% to positive 1% for the year.”