Friday afternoon, as my friends and I were whizzing toward the sunny Delaware shores, pizza delivery powerhouse Papa John's (NASDAQ:PZZA) announced that it would extend its share buyback program. The company, which has repurchased nearly $400 million of its shares under its current program, boosted its authorization to $425 million -- or, at Friday night's closing price, enough to reduce its current share count by approximately 4%.

I looked at Papa John's back in October, with the company trading around 52-week lows following some downbeat sales and earnings news. Investors apparently felt enough was enough, as they jumped some 50% heading into March. Those gains, however, have largely been lost as some cautious improvements in same-store sales have been outweighed by a difficult sales environment (see the company's first-quarter financial results for more) as well as higher cheese costs and value-minded portion increases that have hurt profits.

Carbohydrate-counters aside, it is difficult -- if not downright painful -- to foresee a world without significant demand for pizza. And if fast-food chains like McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) can move with some credibility into the minds of health-conscious eaters, there's little reason to believe a national chain like Papa John's couldn't do the same. Fluctuating ingredient prices, at least, impact the competition as well.

Papa John's biggest challenge is likely competition. Domino's is slated to enter the public market soon, and after paying off some debt may eventually use public money to expand aggressively. Yum! Brands' (NYSE:YUM) Pizza Hut, meanwhile, has done well to re-energize its delivery business. Strong competition in the food business, meanwhile, usually leads to price cuts and promotions, which strain margins.

If you believe Papa John's can build on the slight progress it's managed in getting comps moving in the right direction again, recent history suggests it might be a good idea to take a closer look at the company's shares on the dips. Tom Gardner and his Motley Fool Hidden Gems staff, which have highlighted the company on the newsletter's Watch List, would likely agree -- and with Papa John's standing out as a well-branded consumer business with a quality product, they would have a point.

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Fool contributor Dave Marino-Nachison doesn't own any of the companies mentioned.