Skip to main content

Papa John’s taps veteran QSR exec as new CEO


Papa John's International has selected an experienced veteran to improve its image and lead its turnaround.

The embattled pizza chain named Rob Lynch as president and CEO, effective immediately. He replaces Steve Ritchie, who was named CEO in January 2018.

Since 2017, Lynch has served as  president of Arby’s, the second-largest sandwich restaurant brand in the world with more than 3,400 restaurants across eight countries.

He is crediting with leading the brand’s dramatic turnaround to strong growth and profitability, including 16 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth.

Lynch joined Arby’s in 2013, as chief marketing officer and has also served as president of  president of the Arby’s Franchisee Association since 2013. Prior to Arby’s,  Lynch  held leadership positions at Taco Bell, HJ Heinz Company and Procter & Gamble.

Lynch arrives at Papa John’s as the chain is still dealing with a big sales fallout in the wake of reports last summer that founder, then-chairman and former CEO John Schnatter used a racial slur on a conference call.  It was not his first brush with controversy. Schnatter resigned as CEO in December 2017  following a quarterly earnings call when he blamed the chain’s slowing sales growth on the National Football League’s handling of players’ national anthem protests. He resigned from the board earlier this year in the wake of the second controversy.

In February, activist hedge fund Starboard Value made an investment in Papa John’s.  As part of the deal, Starboard’s CEO Jeff Smith became chairman of Papa John’s.

“I am thrilled to welcome Rob to Papa John’s at this pivotal moment in the company’s history,” said  Smith. “His proven record transforming organizations and realizing the growth potential of differentiated brands is ideally suited for Papa John’s as the company sets forth on its next chapter. I would also like to thank Steve Ritchie for his steady leadership as CEO over the past year and a half. Papa John’s is stronger today because of Steve’s good work stabilizing the company, and our business continues to perform on plan.”

Headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, Papa John's International is the world's third-largest pizza delivery company.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds