Papa John's Pizza is under fire after a Russian franchise operator refused to close 190 of its stores despite the fact that it had promised to suspend all corporate operations in Russia following the invasion of Ukraine by Moscow.
Christopher Wynne, the operator, stated to The New York Times that he will not close the pizza shops owned by his company but mostly controlled by Russians. These 190 stores are the majority of Russia's Papa Johns locations.
Wynne, a 45 year-old Colorado native, stated that the best thing he could do as an individual was to show compassion for people, employees, franchisees, and customers, without judging them by the politicians in power.
He said that the vast majority of Russians are clear-headed and can see the dire consequences of their situation. Wynne said that Russians appreciate good pizza.
Last week Papa John's joined other prominent Russian companies in suspending operations. PepsiCo, McDonald's and Coca-Cola said they would not be operating in Russia.
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, announced the suspension of business activities in Russia and Yum! Brands stated that it would suspend operations at KFC-owned restaurants, and was looking to do the same for Pizza Hut.
Papa John's declared that it had "ceased all corporate operations in Russia" on March 9. It has stopped all marketing, business, and operational support to the Russian market.
"Papa John's International does not receive any royalties from the franchised Russian stores." According to the statement, Papa John's International doesn't own or operate any Russian restaurants.
Despite Wynne's refusal to close his stores and the swift criticism of Papa John's brand,
One person tweeted, "Calling them "Papa Putin" or "Putin’s John."
Many have called for boycotts in the United States.
"Sorry Papa Johns. One person wrote that if your Moscow franchisee doesn't close his Russia shops, we can boycott your pizzas in the USA."
Others pointed out recent controversy that has plagued the chain.
After using , a racial slur, during a conference call in 2018, Papa John's founder John Schnatter quit as the chairman of Papa John's.
Schnatter acknowledged at the time that his use of "inappropriate, hurtful language" was something he did.
Schnatter stated in an email sent to Forbes, "Regardless of context, I am sorry." "Racism has no place in society," Schnatter stated.
Later, he famously stated that he had " eaten over 40 pizzas in 30 days", criticizing the quality and taste of the pies after his ouster.
Schnatter was also in the news when he claimed that he would have to reduce employee hours , and increase prices to cover Obamacare's cost.
He clarified that he did not intend to reduce team hours due to the Affordable Care Act.
Papa John's didn't immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment Wednesday.
According to The New York Times, Wynne's Russian business was "temporarily" terminated by the company.
Papa John's sent a statement to the newspaper saying that it believed the decision of the company to close Russian stores was supported by "the vast majority" of its team, franchisees and customers.
Wynne appears to be steadfast in his decision, regardless of Papa John’s position. He said that Papa John is concerned about corporate and political winds, which he cannot focus on.