In mid-July, the new CEO of Papa John’s, Steve Ritchie, immediately took steps to try to improve the company after its image was tarnished by the racist comment of one of its members. After the public felt that the initial apology letter posted on the Papa John’s website lacked compassion and focused too much on damage control, Ritchie took complaints to heart and wrote a second, more personal letter. In it, he again covered the use of disturbing language by a member of the Papa John’s family and his own position on the matter, but took extra steps to express his sincerity.
As of 2018, Ritchie has worked for Papa Johns for 22 years. He used this experience to present a more balanced perspective in a fierce debate over whether companies should be punished to the point of destruction over the actions of a single person. Ritchie outlined how he will never tolerate “racism and insensitive language” by any of Papa John’s 120,000 employees that exist at corporate and franchise levels. He then outlined a three-point action plan designed to guarantee that he can keep this promise. He stated that management would travel to all Papa John’s locations to discuss this matter in-person with every employee to better understand the situation at all levels and promote diversity. He agreed that the only way to fully understand how deeply racist sentiments might exist in the company is by hiring a third-party audit firm to investigate the matter. Lastly, he asked the public to hold Papa John’s accountable. He offered to aid in this process by stating that management would continue to keep the public aware of their efforts. At the end of the letter, he explained that he wanted to regain trust. He also thanked customers for their loyalty.
Many critics have praised Ritchie for the second letter because it showed empathy and true contrition during a time when many companies are ignoring the anger of their customers and the masses. He also made a point to emphasize that Papa John’s isn’t made up of just one racist person. By noting the number of employees and their status as local community members, Ritchie showed the public that illogical anger toward the company as a whole for the actions of one person harms communities.