Nigel Travis, the CEO of Papa John's (Nasdaq: PZZA ) , joined the pizza purveyor this April Fool's Day (our favorite day of the year here at the Fool) after he helped run Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI ) for 10 years. Although the company hasn't become a formal recommendation of the Motley Fool Hidden Gems newsletter, Papa John's did join my Watch List in 2003.
My brother recently interviewed Nigel on The Motley Fool Radio Show about his new gig at Papa John's. Following are highlights of their conversation.
David Gardner: Papa John's now offers pizza, chicken wings, and chicken strips. Where does the menu evolve from here?
Nigel Travis: We think that lunch is clearly a big opportunity. We have got to find the right menu items for lunch. And even breakfast may be a possibility down the road, but that is way down the road, I think.
David Gardner: Can you compare and contrast the video business to the pizza business?
Nigel Travis: At Blockbuster, we had competition coming from every angle. Technology kept surprising the industry. Pizza is in a situation where you are not going to get surprised from a technological point of view. And as a result of that, I think in many ways you have got a much steadier forward course.
David Gardner: Do you think of your company as "in the pizza business," or would you broaden it and say, "No, we are actually in the food delivery business, and pizza just happens to be our major category?"
Nigel Travis: We deliver to so many customers, and I think we have to take advantage of that. There may be other things that we can deliver. I have got no immediate plans, but certainly there is something I am going to actively look at going forward.
David Gardner: For quite a number of years now, you have been overseeing thousands of people. How do you do it, and have you learned a lesson or two you can teach us?
Nigel Travis: Well, I think one lesson I take from The Motley Fool is do things slightly tongue-in-cheek. Life is serious, but sometimes you need to make it less serious, so everything I try to do has always got that little tinge of humor.
David Gardner: Is there a Papa John's-differentiated brand promise?
Nigel Travis: I think our brand essence is essentially that we have got fresh ingredients and our product is very fresh. For instance, every traditional pizza is made with fresh dough, it is never frozen, and it is prepared with near-filtered water in the company's regional quality control centers. We also have fresh-packed tomato sauce, not concentrate, which is made from tomatoes that are vine-ripened. They go straight from the vine to the can in less than six hours. We have cheese made with 100% mozzarella, and we have all our quality toppings, including baby portobello mushrooms, all of which are chopped in our stores.
David Gardner: I am going to ask you to do something that many CEOs balk at sometimes, which is: I name the competition and you rank it. The reason is, it helps us as investors to understand how you think about your strategy going forward. Domino's (NYSE: DPZ ) is an obvious name that comes to mind, but there is also Pizza Hut (which Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM ) owns) and Little Caesars and local pizza parlors. How would you rank them?
The rest of the interview, including the answer to that last question, is available to subscribers of the Motley Fool Hidden Gems newsletter. Click here to take a free 30-day trial and gain access to the rest of the interview and all of theHidden Gemsteam's stock picks. Current Hidden Gems members can click here to go straight to the interview.
Neither Tom Gardner nor David Gardner have a financial interest in any of the companies mentioned -- although they love pizza as much as the next guy or gal. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.