Papa John’s is growing an appetite for ‘fortressing’ to drive growth

UK director of business development Amit Pancholi offers the latest on the chain’s flexible franchising plan and shares his take on what’s happening in the site selection space.

Papa John’s next phase of growth in the UK could be in the form of ‘fortessing’ or adding further stores in larger territories and trade zones in the name of convenience, the chain’s UK director of business development revealed.

“We’d like people to think ‘Let’s get a Papa John’s.’ rather than ‘Let’s order a pizza.’ To achieve this, we need to be on everyone’s mind and where our customers are,” Amit Pancholi told QSR Media.

Finding success in the pandemic-induced delivery boom and despite lingering challenges, he said that COVID has not affected their goal of opening in more locations. The chain recently introduced the option for delivery to selected outdoor locations around the UK.

“It’s more about being where our customers are so they can have fun and really make the most of the occasion,” he said.

He also echoed the chain’s longstanding, 'flexible' franchising strategy to diversify its locations.

“We are talking to football stadiums, resorts, and even suitable pubs to see how we can be flexible with our model to create the right win-win with those established players, so they can generate a new revenue stream,” he said.

Prior to joining Papa John’s, Pancholi was head of property for a large multi-brand franchise group – overseeing a portfolio that included Domino’s Pizza, Zaza, and Tim Hortons stores. He previously managed Domino’s estate portfolio for the U.K. and Ireland for three years. 

Justin Gilbert, who formerly occupied Pancholi’s current role, has been promoted to senior operations director.

For Pancholi, creating a “win-win situation” and being approachable are key in business.

“I believe this is critically important for any long-term business success. Not settling for second best is also a key philosophy. This is particularly so when it comes to selecting retail sites. It’s far better to pay a little more for rent on a premium site than go for cheaper rent and accept a poorer site,” he explained.

“Papa John’s sells a premium product, and our approach needs to reflect this in our choice of location, service, and the overall quality in everything we do.”

“From my own perspective when it comes to my management style, I believe in being approachable. Whether I’m working with franchisees, colleagues, suppliers, or other stakeholders I like to be able to listen, take on board and respond to any challenges in a positive way,” he added.

The executive is also working closely with new franchisees to help them open in locations that they have yet to enter into.

“I’m able to share my knowledge and experience of the QSR industry and property and retail sectors to identify opportunities for the benefit of both franchisees and Papa John’s,” he said.

Pancholi also observed various shifts in terms of how the industry is approaching expansion due to the behaviours seen amidst COVID.

“There are certainly more vacant sites. However, there are also new market entrants and established players are changing the way they work with some now looking for smaller units,” he surmised.

“Delivery has become more important than in-store takeaways, so firms are working more closely with aggregators like Deliveroo and, as a result, are looking for stores with a smaller footprint. There have been some shifts in supply and demand but there is always competition for the very best retail sites and there is always a limited stock so in this way little has changed.”

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