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

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Papa Murphy’s marked its 30th anniversary this year and launched a new ad campaign focused on value and customization. Is that the brand’s focus going forward?

Our campaign, the Take ’N Bake Revolution, was designed to drive awareness of who we are, and also awareness of take-and-bake pizza. Linking those two makes a lot of sense.

We call it a revolution to help people understand what take-and-bake is. It makes them ask what’s revolutionary about it.

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And the answer is what I shared earlier about what growing concepts like Chipotle, In-N-Out and Chick-fil-A have in common. What’s really popular right now is the idea of food-forward design. It’s high-integrity ingredients, food prepared in front of you, and focus. They’re brands that don’t try to be all things to all people.

When you see who comes and goes [in the industry], the real trends right now are moving toward food and the wholesomeness of food.

It fits our brand well and it’s a good first start. We want to continue to grow and build that message.

How have commodity costs affected Papa Murphy’s?

Cheese costs are high right now. We use a high-quality cheese and we use a lot of cheese on our pizzas. Other ingredients like beef are high as well, but cheese is probably biggest challenge.

When you get pressured by commodity costs, you need to do two things: you need to keep a long-term perspective and don’t compromise product quality.

Higher commodity costs challenge franchisee profits, so we have kicked off a franchisee profitability initiative. It’s about strategically looking for opportunities, whether that’s in menu mix, or the new product pipeline, or store contributions and how you educate franchisees on how they can run more efficiently. We set up a task force team and we’re developing and testing initiatives to help us from a profitability standpoint.

We also have some very strong entrepreneurs in our system, and, as I get out to visit them, I’m amazed at the different ideas that some do in their markets, but not nationally. To me, there’s a whole new layer of sales growth possible by asking them to share their ideas on a national basis.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout