Here’s An In-Depth Look At Papa John’s Long, Strange Trip From Pizza Magnate To Social Media Superstar

papa john transition social media superstar

Getty Image

I have something to admit: I am a sucker for crazy people.

I don’t think it’s that out of the ordinary, but when I come across someone who is clearly insane, I can’t look away. I become obsessed with people who are so far outside of their mind that they somehow stumble their way into success, or (in some cases) into jail. Either way, there is a lot of information on the internet about them and I have to know everything.

That’s why I’m fascinated with people like 6ix9ine or any up-and-coming rapper who is willing to tattoo their face in the hopes of making it. I support the commitment and I get the idea of going all-in, but maybe put out a song before you tattoo stitches across your mouth.

But let’s save face-tattooed rappers for another day. Today, I want to talk about Papa John Schnatter, who is quickly becoming an American Icon.

Now, I know that you know who he is. Everyone does. But do you really know Papa? Some of his recent activity online has earned him a reputation for insanity, but he is not your typical run-of-the-mill crazy person.

Given his business success and his overall vibe, he comes off quite normal, but with social media exposing him more and more, he is anything but. While he may seem crazy to some, to others he’s inspirational. He’s had some rough patches in the past, but it’s hard to deny the motivational spirit he brings just by giving us an inside look into his lavish lifestyle.

We all know about the commercials and him being fired as CEO of the company he founded and the infamous day of reckoning video, but what about Papa John makes him so interesting to the masses? What is the obsession with him that keeps people glued to his content?

As a TikTok professional (and by professional I mean that I go on it a lot), I saw he recently got on the app to start his journey to the top of the influencer industry. Of course, I was hooked. Some people are using the stay-at-home orders to better themselves by reading or working out but I’m diving headfirst into all things Papa John Schnatter.

I have been aware of Papa John for some time now, but I never really “saw” him. It’s like when you have a friend over and he says, “Hey dude, why does your girlfriend have used condoms in her trashcan? I thought you guys were saving it for marriage? “Then you’re like, “Huh… yeah, I didn’t even realize that.”

It’s something so normal to you; something you see every day that makes it just sort of blend in. That was Papa John to me. I saw him all the time on TV to a point where I became numb to him. He hit us with a commercial every NFL Sunday, so I knew he was the CEO of the pizza place clearly inferior to Domino’s but didn’t get to see who he truly was.

Sidenote: Does anyone really like Papa John’s? It feels like the Sketchers of pizza. You know when you ask, “Who in the world is still buying Sketchers?” Same thing here. I know they exist and are somehow doing well, but rarely—if ever—do I hear about people willingly getting Papa John’s.

I think I’ve maybe had it once in my 25 years of pizza eating and it was mediocre at best. It’s nothing to call home about and certainly nothing to order a second time. What I am trying to say is if you are about to order pizza, no one ever says “Want to get Papa John’s?” It’s more like “Ahh, all they have in this town is Papa John’s so we’ll go with that.” The only time people really bring up the name is after the catchphrase: Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.

See? I know you just said it in your head.

And yet, he is still successful. So how does one become a billionaire by making subpar pizza? It’s obvious: he has the answers a lot of us who strive for success are looking for. Now that his CEO hat has been forcefully removed, he has put on his influencer fedora to give us a front-row seat to the life of John Schnatter.

In today’s world, you don’t just “do” something. There is a process. When people need the motivation to become successful, they don’t simply get up and get to work. If you want to achieve something in 2020, you spend the first couple of days studying success and buying all of the equipment needed before actually putting in the work.

You don’t just start working on a business; you watch all of the Gary Vee videos you can find and buy his course so you can remember to #Hustle every morning. You don’t just start dieting and eating right; you put on your favorite YouTube fitness channel and consume every video they have while you consume your last bag of Doritos before actually starting your diet.

That’s what I did with Papa. It’s no secret that I would like to be a billionaire but I never really knew how to get there—at least until Papa John joined social media and I got to see just how he goes about his life. I knew he was a little crazy, but I would have never guessed how life-changing witnessing that craziness could be.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the life of the guy who created his own fortune. We’ll start with one of his first videos on the internet, which was uploaded in 2010 and features him placing an order online for the first time.

My first thought after watching the video was, “It’s 2010. How the hell did Papa John’s not have a website yet?” Pizza Hut started online ordering in 1994 and 16 years later you still haven’t figured it out? Seems late. But then it hit me: maybe that was the key to success.

Uber wasn’t the first ride-sharing company, but it made it big because it perfected it. Papa John wanted to study the online ordering business before he got involved to make sure he executed it as flawlessly as possible. It’s a theme you will see throughout his life: perfection. Whether it’s ingredients, his hair, or his skin, perfection is the name of the game for Papa.

I’d also like to address what happens around the 33-second mark in the video, which is when we’re introduced to his son Bo, who looks about 14 and greets us with a nice “Bo’s in the house!”

Any kid with a normal dad would be scolded for saying something like that. If my dad introduced me to a friend of his and I said “Tj’s in the house!” with my hands up in the air, I would have gotten the belt. Instead, Papa John said, “Yeah, that’s good, let’s keep that in.” You know what? It worked. How else would we have known what a powerful presence Bo was in the commercial? Papa said it best in the clip; he is”‘low-tech; high-pizza,” so he needed Bo.

This brings me to a huge key to his success: know your strengths.

If Papa hadn’t gotten an assist from his self-proclaimed high-tech, high-pizza son, there’s a chance the online order wouldn’t have been placed as smoothly and the instructional video would have been a bust. But because Papa knew what he could do well (pizza) and knew where he needed help (tech), we get this great instructional video.

One major thing I realized while researching this is that Papa is a robot, which is the case with many successful people. The man was put on this earth to make pizza and that’s all he was programmed to do. You look at Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk and you get the same thing: insanely successful people who appear to be robotic in their production.

That’s because when it comes to their niche, they are just that: robots who can produce at the highest level time and time again at their specific talent. With Papa, you get the same vibe. However, instead of different equations and algorithms running around that could save the world, Papa has pizza recipes, better ingredients, and cool Italian catchphrases being processed by the chip embedded in his skull.

While he mainly thinks and operates in terms of pizza, he also knows just how important he is to the success of others and the world around him. He has absolutely no social skills at all, yet he knows that in order to continue growing his personal brand after leaving the CEO office, he needs to get in front of that camera. How else would he inspire the youth? A little delusional and out of touch with reality, sure, but his success is undeniable and has to be documented to help future pizza entrepreneurs.

All of his videos are not only pure entertainment but a roadmap to success. With a net worth of about $1 billion, he can pretty much do anything he wants, and after watching some of his TikToks, you’ll feel like you can do it too. I mean, how can you not get inspired after watching the guy who bought this house after 35 years of selling subpar pizza?

papa john transition social media superstar

Google Earth

A true entrepreneur doesn’t just stop after his first venture. You create your business, build your wealth, and start a new one. While some billionaires go into things like venture capitalism or building new companies, Papa decided to use his knowledge and expertise to motivate youth through the new challenge of becoming a social media influencer. Listening to that inner robotic voice telling him he needs to educate the world, Papa has given us an inside look into what makes him so successful.

While there are already hundreds of motivational speakers and influencers out there, Papa John knew he was getting into muddied waters, but he didn’t care. He knew he has something to offer and he wasn’t going to let the Tai Lopez’s of the world discourage his dreams. Was Shaq going to quit basketball because Patrick Ewing was already in the NBA? Of course not.

To kick things off, Papa did what any good motivational speaker and teacher of wealth would do: show off his own wealth to prove he is someone worth listening to.

If that doesn’t make you want to get up and go start a business right now, I don’t know what will. Not only are his outfits on point, but throughout these videos, you can tell his whole life is on point. He is living that social media influencer life where everything is pristine.

From the watches to his Papa merch to his office set up, everything is positioned to make you want his life, which is the first step when it comes to being a good influencer. Success doesn’t come easy, but after watching a few of these videos, you know it’s all possible. Just seeing his mansion is all the proof you need that if you were to sell your car today to start a business (like he did) you can and will be successful if you just grind.

Another thing great influencers do is show off how ripped and in good shape they are, because everyone knows being in shape and being successful are one and the same. Fitness is obviously extremely important to Papa. Sure, he may have eaten 40 pizzas in a month to test the quality of the company’s product after he was ousted, and sure, he probably has grease in his veins as opposed to blood, but as you’ll see below, he does curls, which everyone knows is more than enough to work off all the clogged arteries from years of pizza eating.

Papa can afford to live like this for many reasons, but as any good online marketer knows, supporting your business of teaching others to be successful requires you to squeeze as many dollars as possible from your viewers and there’s no better way to do so than shilling some sweet, sweet merch.

You need to be able to sustain your expensive and unnecessary lifestyle by selling merch that people are probably only buying as gag gifts. It allows you to grow your brand, and keeping up with TikTok trends while moving merch is a textbook strategy of a successful social media influencer.


Check out the link in my bio to rock some sweet gear and #GiveBackWithPapa — it’s all for charity! #foodfam #MakeMomSmile #woah #familytime

♬ Woah – KRYPTO9095

But what makes Papa John so different? Why does he seem to be surpassing some of the greats? Well, he has gone above and beyond. You don’t just become a billionaire by settling for average. Anyone can get a mansion but how do you separate yourself in the saturated influencer marketplace? Buy things that only truly successful people have.

Helicopters, boats, whatever it takes. It doesn’t matter, you just need to show that you are better and have more money than others, as he does time and time again.

Papa John has had an incredibly successful life, and as any good success coach will tell you, it didn’t come easy. There will be a lot of setbacks, but after watching these videos, you get a good baseline understanding of what your hard work can do—and that’s just Step 1.

Papa John is selling us on the lifestyle and he’s doing a great job. Anyone reading this now knows that you—yes, you—can buy mansions, helicopters, sell merch with your face on it, and eat 40 pizzas a month if you put in the work. It’s not easy, but it all starts with getting motivated by watching these videos and learning how to be successful from the very best.