Papa John's signs largest multi-unit franchisee to date

Signing of leisure expert Geoff Parsons shows that US giant is making in-roads in the British market

British born Papa John's CEO Nigel Travis (pictured right) raised eyebrows during his last visit to the UK when he outlined the company's ambitious strategy to attract food entrepreneurs into the organisation.

The company with the 'Better Ingredients. Better Pizza' pledge highlighted their belief that better franchisees was the third and crucial ingredient, announcing plans to recruit successful business people looking to develop clusters of Papa John's stores across the country. The route to rapid UK expansion and success now looks even clearer for America's favourite pizza company, with Nigel announcing the successful recruitment of a new franchisee that epitomises Papa John's future growth.

Leisure expert Geoff Parsons has agreed a deal that will see his company open over 10 Papa John's franchises concentrated around the M4 corridor, and Nigel believes the deal will be the catalyst for other similar partnerships. 'Geoff is a very experienced and astute operator and has a business background that includes financial, marketing, operations and sales director roles at large multi-national companies,' says Nigel.

'He identified the potential of franchising over a decade ago and operated 16 of his own Burger King stores during the '90s, so we see his support, enthusiasm and commitment towards Papa John's as a seal of approval for our brand. When I visited during Spring I told our existing franchise partners that we would back up our words with actions very soon and I think this deal has certainly done that.' The opening of Geoff's restaurants will also help Papa John's move through the 100-restaurant mark in the UK, and the entrepreneur admitted he can't wait to get his first restaurant open. 'It became pretty obvious towards the turn of the century that the burger market was moving backwards and I am certain that the trend will continue, the consumer is now more and more aware about provenance and service and the franchisors in that area are just not able to deliver,' says Geoff.

'I realised that the success in that area was coming to an end and had identified takeaway and delivery pizza as the most sustainable proposition, but really wanted to see a company with the appetite and growth potential to excite me.

'Papa John's had always been on my radar but over the last 12 months they have demonstrated their single minded approach to delivering a great product and service and they also have the geographical availability to allow a franchise partner to develop a whole territory - which is exactly what I have agreed to do.'

Geoff's arrival within the Papa John's family will be a reunion of sorts, as the businessman has twice worked within the same organisation as Papa John's worldwide CEO Travis - the pair were originally together at Massey Ferguson before coming together again at Grand Met.

'Nigel being in charge of Papa John's was certainly a factor in how interested I was,' says Geoff. 'Not because of friendships but because I knew that having an astute, British CEO who cared as much about this market as Nigel does would mean Papa John's were completely committed to success over here. Selling Perfect Pizza was a clear indication that Nigel was going to be completely single minded about Papa John's direction and did not want any confusion about the brand and its quality positioning.'

The arrival of Geoff onto the Papa John's scene has been hailed as a 'markerpost' of the company's route to continued success by Ian Saunders, the UK Managing Director: 'I am delighted to welcome Geoff to Papa John's - we are all thrilled that he has chosen to become one of our franchise partners. We are fully committed to working with Geoff to ensure that his business is a great success, and are all sure that he will be a fantastic ambassador for the brand.'

Headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, Papa John's International, Inc. is the world's third-largest pizza company, operating in all 50 US states and 26 countries. For eight years running, consumers have rated Papa John's number one in customer satisfaction among all national QSR chains in the highly regarded American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). In the UK, Papa John's was named Delivery Operator of the Year among pizza chains in 2005 and 2006 by the Pizza and Pasta Association. The company recently invested in point-of-sale technology and its online ordering capabilities, both intended to further enhance the customer ordering experience.