Whether you’re an occasional pizza eater or a regular Friday night pizza-goer, you know good pizza when you taste it. Luckily for us, Papa John’s is a Louisville institution. Whether you ordered from Papa John’s back in the 1980s when it first began or you are a relative newcomer to their tasty flavors, you know that Papa John’s never compromises when it comes to your pie.

One of the best things about ordering from Papa John’s is the smiling faces you’ll meet. Whether it’s the friendly person on the phone, the familiar face behind the counter or the energetic person who brings your pizza to your door, your Papa John’s experience is bound to be great from start to finish.

Meet the FACES of Papa John's!

Meet the FACES of Papa John’s!

So, who are those great people making your pizza perfect? We sat down with a few of them to talk about the art of making pizzas, their career journeys and why they love their jobs so much.

Meet the FACES of Papa John’s

Karen Roalofs, Owner-Operator of Fern Creek, Highview and Mt. Washington stores

Karen Roalofs, Owner-Operator of Fern Creek and Mt. Washington stores

Karen Roalofs, Owner-Operator of Fern Creek and Mt. Washington stores

Tell me your Papa John’s story.

At the age of 15, I remember coming home from school and my parents announcing to our family that they were going to take a second mortgage out on their house to open their own Papa John’s restaurant. I spent the spring break of my sophomore year of high school scraping wall paper off of an old tanning salon, laying tile floors and hanging drywall with my entire family. I began working for our family business at 16 years old by answering phones and taking orders. In the early days, Papa John’s wasn’t known yet, so my brothers and I spent our days in that summer of 1987, going door to door throughout neighborhoods. One of our only forms of marketing was door-hanging coupons and letting people know who we were. It was a very grassroots marketing campaign, as there was no money for TV or radio in those days for advertising. After high school, I paid my way thru college, at UofL, as a Papa John’s delivery driver. Upon graduation, I went to work for the marketing department at Papa John’s Corporate Office while continuing to work as a driver part-time for our Fern Creek location.

In 2017, my dad was ready to retire from the day-to-day operations. I became part-owner of the company and took over the day-to-day office operations from him while also overseeing the human resources aspect of our business. To this day, our Papa John’s location is our family business and I get to work side-by-side with my brothers each day. We are extremely proud to be the company’s first franchisees. Opening our Papa John’s locations in Fern Creek, Highview and Mt. Washington has blessed us with more than we could have ever imagined. It is a joy to be involved with and support the local area ministries, churches, schools, ball clubs, chamber of commerce and, of course, our customers. Our community has been part of our extended family for 31 years. Being a family business with Papa John’s as our parent company is an outstanding place to be.

What does it mean to you personally to be a part of the Papa John’s team?

It started because of family, because we knew each other from the neighborhood. We went to the same pool. The founder’s aunt was my babysitter growing up. I’ve had brothers who have worked for us before, and now their kids are coming back through. It’s third generation for us now, almost four.

What do you like most about your job?

I think one of the most fun parts of my job is giving a 16-year-old their first job and watching them grow, figure out where they want to go in life and how to treat a customer with respect the way that they would want to be treated. And that’s one of the best parts of the job is just teaching them those values.

Is there any one person who you mentored over the years who stands out in your memory?

So many of my past employees who have come through are now teachers, doctors, business owners of their own, and they all started with us either as a phone person or as a delivery driver. I’ve got drivers that are 20 all the way up to 66 years old. So it spans all walks of life, all religions, all creeds, all races. And it is a true family.

"My favorite part is making sure it's perfect in that box before it goes to my customer," says Karen.

“My favorite part is making sure it’s perfect in that box before it goes to my customer,” says Karen.

Talk about the importance of being a locally owned business.

That comes down to community and being involved with your chambers, your churches, your schools. I’m planning the fall festival right now for our chamber, so I get to work with all the different businesses around us. And it’s an opportunity to pay it forward, and it’s a give-give relationship — every piece that you give out will come back to you whether in business or in just wonderful relationships within your community.

Tell me about your favorite day with Papa John’s.

There is a homeless gentleman who walks up and down Bardstown Road. Every once in a while he would stand outside and look in like he was hungry. One day, he actually ventured into the store and, he was very timid and very shy to even ask, but he asked if we had anything. And I didn’t have anything. But I said, ”Let me make a small cheese pizza and get you a bottle of Pepsi.” So he says OK; he was very gracious. Then he took the pizza and the drink, and I look outside about three minutes later and he’s sitting in the grass eating pizza with the happiest look on his face that I have ever seen on any customer. I just get chills still thinking about it. He was laid back in the grass, relaxed, taking another bite, so happy to have food in his belly and to know that somebody took three minutes out of their day to talk with him. It’s probably my best day ever in 31 years.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

Making a pizza, doing what we do, is almost second nature, but taking care of somebody, knowing that you’ve made that small difference, is what it’s about for me.

LaTivia Effinger, General Manager, South Broadway

LaTivia Effinger, General Manager, South Broadway

LaTivia Effinger, General Manager, South Broadway store

How did you get started with Papa John’s?

I started at working at Papa John’s when I was 16, when I was a junior at Jeffersonville High I’ve been at Papa John’s for 17 years, turning what I thought was just a teenage summer job into a lifelong career.

Do you have any favorite customers or crew members?

I have many favorite team members at Papa John’s across the 10+ locations I have worked in, but my current favorite crew member is Ms. Sharon Davis. She is like everyone’s “mom” at the store, helping to keep everyone on track and making sure everyone is okay, both on a professional and personal level. She’s a very reliable worker. For example, if the store is busy and we need extra help, I can call her on her day off and she will come in to help. I know I can count on her no matter the situation.

What is most rewarding?

To me, the most rewarding thing is seeing another team member move up in the company. Watching a crew member get promoted to shift lead, to manager designate … just seeing their progress and watching them grow. I also know I am making a difference at Papa John’s and in my location. I am more than an inspiration to a lot of my team members, I have had or have every obstacle against me imaginable. I am a woman, I’m black and I’m openly gay. I was in-and-out of the foster system as a child and was adopted by my foster parents officially in high school. I have experienced a lot in my life and so to me … there are no excuses. That’s why I believe that I am an inspiration to others.

I had all those obstacles against me and I have worked my way up to General Manager of my own Papa John’s location. Work hard and you will reap what you sow. Watching my team members move up and take on new challenges is hands down the most rewarding because I do feel like I am making a difference in their lives and motivating them to move up.

What should others know about your Papa John’s location?

What I want others to know is that my team at South Broadway is small, but MIGHTY! My team is awesome. We work unbelievably hard to maintain a clean work environment and to provide the best product to our customers. I also want everyone to know that my team genuinely cares. They care about the timely manner of when the customer will receive their pizza, they care about one another, and they care about the homeless within our community. I have seen a team member go to the extent of purchasing pizza from their own wallet for a homeless man that came into our store. I have a caring team, but of course we have our dysfunctional times, like everyone else’s family because that’s ultimately what Papa John’s is. We are one very large family.

LaTivia Effinger of Papa John's

“I also know I am making a difference at Papa John’s and in my location. I am more than an inspiration to a lot of my team members, I have had or have every obstacle against me imaginable. I am a woman, I’m black and I’m openly gay. I was in-and-out of the foster system as a child,” says LaTivia. “I have experienced a lot in my life and so to me … there are no excuses.”

What do you like most about your job?

Besides the fact that I like making pizzas, I enjoy being part of the Papa John’s team knowing that I can make a difference in someone’s life. For example, when I hire someone, I’m not only giving them an opportunity to work but I’m giving them an opportunity to work at a company that promotes from within the company. Another way Papa John’s allows me to make a difference is, I hire at-risk teenagers and give them opportunities to make money. I’m able to give them something constructive to do with their time. Our store also donates pizzas to the local churches and youth groups to give back to the community that inevitably keeps this store running.

Do you have a favorite day or cherished memory from your time at Papa John’s?

My favorite memories are the days spent with our current CEO, Steve Ritchie. As CEO I’m sure that fellow team members believe he’s a strict, unapproachable guy solely because of his title, but in reality he is an awesome guy. He taught me how to make pizzas. I don’t think many people can say that the CEO of one of the largest pizza companies in the world was able to teach them how to make pizzas.

One specific memory was the day Steve asked me to move up to be the General Manager of South Broadway, my current location. The first time the management opportunity was offered to me I turned it down, but he believed in me. Steve believing in me instilled a deeper work ethic and pride that drove me to put everything I had into advancing within Papa John’s. A few years later after maturing even more as a manager, he offered it to me again and I felt like I was ready to take on the challenge of making that location better than it had ever been before. Of course I didn’t do it alone, but with the help of my team members and because of that motivation and trust from Steve Ritchie almost 15 years ago, I am where I am today.

Amber Nielsen, General Manager, Prospect

Amber Nielsen, General Manager, Prospect

Amber Nielsen, General Manager, Prospect

How did you get started with Papa John’s?

It was my first job eight years ago. I started out in the store, answering phones and things like that. When I turned 18, I went to my manager and I was like, “Hey, I want to be a manager.” And she was like, “Great!” And then she put me through training.

Do you have any favorite customers?

I would say mostly the people who stick with us, who make us part of their routine and tradition. I recognize orders that come in every Friday, and people on the phone tell me, “Yes, it’s our movie night, and we always order from you.” That’s really nice to hear.

Any favorite crew members?

The ones who stay positive — I have a lot of people at my store who like to joke around, and when we’re really busy, instead of freaking out, they are just like, “I love pizza! Pizza is my favorite thing!” We try to keep it positive and keep it moving.

Tell me a story about your favorite day with Papa John’s.

A couple of years ago, it was a weekend night, and it was supposed to be busy, but it was a beautiful day, so we weren’t. We decided to have a box-folding competition. It was lots of people laughing and folding boxes. Boxes were everywhere. I was trying to keep track of whose pile was whose, and I just remember it being, like, so pure and so much fun.

If you could tell a customer one reason they should get their next pizza from Papa John’s, what would it be?

I would say the way I make a pizza — and the way I encourage my team members to make a pizza — is to approach it like a work of art. From start to finish, we’re trying to make something beautiful and have fun with it.

Fisher Kraft, Training General Manager, Springhurst Commons

Fisher Kraft, Training General Manager, Springhurst Commons

Fisher Kraft, Training General Manager, Springhurst Commons

Tell me about your journey with Papa John’s.

I ended up starting Papa John’s because I had had a couple reconstructive surgeries on my feet, and I couldn’t do my landscape job anymore. A friend of mine suggested delivering for Papa John’s. I started in 2014, and a few months after that, my general manager at the time asked me if I wanted to manage. So, I tried it and absolutely loved it. I love the people; I love the culture. I’ve looped around to a few different stores and eventually got one of my own.

What’s kept you here?

My team — it’s the team that I’ve built and the culture that I’ve built at my store. I don’t mean to sound corny, but it’s like a big family. I mean people call and check up on each other. They even help each other outside of work.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

Training — for a lot of people who come to work at Papa John’s, this is their first job, and you get to take that person and determine their work ethic for probably the rest of their lives. You can teach them to do things the right way and to be present at all times and create a heck of an employee.

"There's a couple who will give delivery drivers a tip and a candy bar to-go," says Fisher of a favorite Springhurst Commons customer. "The drivers just go nuts for it."

“There’s a couple who will give delivery drivers a tip and a candy bar to-go,” says Fisher of a favorite Springhurst Commons customer. “The drivers just go nuts for it.”

What does it mean to you to be part of the Papa John’s team?

When I first started with Papa John’s, I was a socially awkward kid. I didn’t really like talking to people. I definitely didn’t like interacting with people. Then I realized what delivering was — you go and you talk to people, and then you come back and talk to people, and you go talk to more people. It helped me grow and become a better version of me: A lot more social, a little less awkward. I’m still definitely awkward, but a little less.

Tell me the story of your favorite day with Papa John’s.

We were doing a fundraiser in the Norton Children’s Hospital parking lot for brain cancer. A girl from another location and I were working together and having an awesome time. We worked together for about eight hours and immediately just clicked. We’ve been dating for almost two years, we just bought a house, and we have two dogs. And now, I think that was the day that I potentially met the love of my life.

Why should a customer get their next pizza from Papa John’s?

I have worked with dozens of people who have worked at different pizzerias, so I can tell you just from the negative experiences that I’ve heard from them that we, at Papa John’s, stand with more integrity. I attribute it to our core values.

I like my store for one reason specifically: I have my mother, my father, an aunt, an uncle, two best friends, their entire families and a grandmother in my trade area, and all of them order from my store. We don’t make or deliver pizzas that aren’t perfect or fit our high standard at Papa John’s. I promise you that Grandma wouldn’t allow it. If Grandma is paying for one of our pizzas, she knows she’s getting the best, and the best is what we’re going to give her … or we will definitely be hearing about it.

Kelly Barnard, Senior Director of Operations for Louisville and Lexington

Kelly Barnard, Senior Director of Operations for Louisville and Lexington

Kelly Barnard, Senior Director of Operations for Louisville and Lexington

Tell me about your journey with Papa John’s.

I started with Papa John’s a little over 17 years ago as a delivery driver while going to college to be a teacher. While working in my store, I saw an opportunity to advance into management, so I worked full-time while still in college. I was then asked to move to Louisville four years ago from my hometown of St. Louis. In April, I was promoted to the position I am in now where I oversee all of the 26 Corporate Louisville and Southern Indiana locations, as well as the 15 Lexington Corporate locations.

What do you like best about your job?

The people — being able to help people daily, train them, coach them, mentor them, because if it wouldn’t have been for the people who took me under their wings and mentored me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’ve had multiple people underneath me further their careers and make a better life for themselves. That’s been very rewarding.

Why do you stay with Papa John’s?

Papa John’s is truly a family. I stay for the family culture we have built within this company. Some of my very best friends are my coworkers. I have been with this company for 17 years, so I have literally grown up with this pizzeria. Papa John’s has been very good to me personally and continues to give me incredible opportunities that I wouldn’t have had elsewhere. Papa John’s is where I am meant to be, and I am extremely grateful for all they continue to do to make the lives of their employees better.

Are there any misconceptions about the company that you want to clear up?

Papa John’s has always been about the people. You know there’s been questions about the diversity that we have as a company, and I live that daily. This company does take care of its people. We really do put people first.

Do you have any favorite customers?

I remember throwing a birthday party for a 4-year-old here in Louisville. We brought him and his friends into the restaurant, and we allowed the kids to make their own little pizzas. It was so much fun. The smiles, laughter and joy that came out of that day is something I’ll never forget. Pizza makes kids light up, especially when they get to taste their own pizzas that they made. I’m hoping that one day one of those kids will walk into restaurants looking for a job. That would mean the world to me.

Meet the FACES of Papa John's!

“The foundation of our company is ‘PAPA’ — People Are Priority Always. And, for me, that truly is the core piece of it all, and the deep roots that run in our Papa John’s family,” says Kelly.

Do you have a favorite task or other element to your day-to-day job?

My favorite part of my job is getting to know and understand our team members. Being able to walk into our pizzerias and talk to current and new employees. I love getting to know them personally while discussing what we can do to improve their restaurant and how we can make our customers experience a better one. The foundation of our company is “PAPA” — People Are Priority Always. And, for me, that truly is the core piece of it all, and the deep roots that run in our Papa John’s family.

Tell me the story of your favorite day with Papa John’s.

I guess it was the day I got promoted to general manager, being given the opportunity to be more of a leader and an asset and a more important role in this company.

To find a Papa John’s near you or to order online, visit papajohns.com.

This article is sponsored by Papa John’s.

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