Shares mainly tracked the wider market for most of the year, then broke later on to nearly double the S&P's gain.
The pizza delivery giant got the ball rolling in late August by announcing an aggressive turnaround plan after naming Rob Lynch as its new CEO. Investors quickly started seeing progress on that score, with third-quarter growth results edging into positive territory. Sure, the restaurant stock's 5% sales slump over the year's first three quarters translates into market share losses. But Papa John's third-quarter increase nearly matched Domino's (DPZ 1.04%) result while setting the company up for a return to growth perhaps as early as 2020.
Rival Domino's has been one of the market's biggest winners over the past decade, and that potential likely has investors excited about the prospects for Papa John's, should its recovery take hold. That's why shareholders will be watching comparable-store sales trends closely when the company announces its fourth-quarter results in late February.