Papa John's is moving its global headquarters to Atlanta from Louisville, where it will retain a strong corporate presence. The company has restaurants in 48 countries, including China.

Papa John’s may be known to Americans as the pizza chain down the street, but when the franchisor moves its headquarters to Atlanta, it also brings extensive global connections.

Founded in Louisville, Ky., Papa John’s announced this week it would move key corporate operations to Georgia, where it already employs 2,500 people.

Around the world, the company has about 5,300 locations, including 3,200 in North America and about 2,100 across 47 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe, from Kazakhstan to Oman to Venezuela 

The corporate restructuring will bring 200 jobs in menu innovation, marketing, e-commerce, human resources, diversity and inclusion, communications and more to Atlanta, where the new office will open in 2021. Atlanta is already home to the brand’s largest quality control center; a search is under way for office space.  

The company is reportedly keeping most of its 750 jobs in Louisville, where it started 36 years ago. Some see the Atlanta move as helping distance the pizza chain from its roots as it focuses more on diversity after the departure of former chairman and founder John Schnatter, whose use of a racial slur on a conference call caused substantial financial fallout for the brand in 2019.  

In Atlanta, Papa John’s joins a strong contingent of franchisors, from Chick-fil-A — which is only now making gradual inroads internationally  — to Inspire Brands (Arby’s, Sonic and more), Church’s Chicken, Waffle House and multi-brand food companies like Focus Brands and Global Franchise Group. Outside the restaurant world, Atlanta is home to franchise operators like Rollins Inc., Aaron’s Inc. and International Hotels Group’s North American headquarters, among others.  

Rob Lynch, the Papa John’s CEO, joined the company from his Atlanta-based role as president of Arby’s a year ago to help turn its performance around.

“We’re thrilled to open a headquarters office in such an energetic and diverse region,” Mr. Lynch said in a release. “Metro Atlanta’s deep talent pool and its world-class airport connecting us to the domestic and international markets that are key to our brand’s future will accelerate our long-term growth.”   

While a major contributor to the corporate community and employment of the city, the industry hasn’t received the fanfare of other sectors like financial technology.

“Papa John’s will certainly benefit from our region’s skilled talent pool, expertise in the restaurant/franchise industry, world class airport and business-friendly environment,” recently appointed Metro Atlanta Chamber CEO Katie Kirkpatrick said in a news release. She succeeded Hala Moddelmog, who was a strong proponent of the franchise sector after leading both Arby’s and Church’s Chicken.  

Franchising also aids Atlanta’s internationalization by connecting it with faraway parts of the globe with which it may not be naturally linked: Southeast Asia and the Middle East, for instance, are key markets for many global brands.  

According to one study, franchising accounts for 11.6 percent of Georgia’s jobs and generates $39 billion of its gross state product.  

Read more: Commentary: Why Atlanta Should Be the Global Hub for Franchising 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...

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