Q&A: Ken Calwell, Papa Murphy's president


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Are you a fan of In-N-Out and Chick-fil-A?

I really respect In-N-Out within the burger category. They have a very strong brand. I respect Chick-fil-A and Chipotle.

What they have in common is they do one thing and do it well. Chick-fil-A is all about a great chicken sandwich. In-N-Out is all about a great burger and fries. Chipotle’s commitment to high-quality food is phenomenal.

When they come into a market, everyone knows about it and they have lines around the block when they open a store. That’s what I see for Papa Murphy’s.

How many states is Papa Murphy’s in now?

We are in about 37 states. But the real opportunity is to not measure by how many states we’re in, but by how well we’re doing in the states we’re in. We have opportunity there to focus our resources, to come in with more stores at a time, with more franchisees at a time and more advertising at a time.

Papa Murphy’s average unit volumes dipped in 2010. How have sales been this year?

I would say 2011 has been much stronger. Our sales are growing very well. We’re seeing very good momentum from a sales and transaction perspective.

In 2010, we discovered we spread a bit too broadly. We want to choose our markets more carefully and use our resources more carefully.

Are you planning other management personnel changes?

We made some strategic changes this summer and fall. We are interviewing for a new senior vice president for operations, which is a key role for us. That’s to replace Kevin King, who’s now our chief development officer. We’ll also make some more investments in our development team to support Kevin.