Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)

It’s hard to think of a franchise more plagued by public image problems than Papa John’s. The chain is still embroiled in a legal battle with ex-CEO chain founder John Schnatter, who stepped down as chair of the board after a series of p.r. disasters, then immediately tried to wrest control of his former company back from the board. Meanwhile, unsurprisingly, PJ sales are down, and franchisees are so fed up they’ve hired a lawyer to represent them in talks with Schnatter and the company after the “tremendous financial losses” they’ve incurred.

Now, Nation’s Restaurant News reports that the company has now hired Marvin Boakye as the pizza chain’s first chief people officer. He will head “the Louisville, Ky.-based company’s human resources department in developing the company’s talent management strategy.”

Boakye will report to Papa John’s president and CEO Steve Ritchie, who stated, “Boakye’s expertise will help us to continue to push Papa John’s forward in our transformation to become a better place to work for our 120,000 corporate and franchise team members.” According to NRN, Boakye’s role “will also be responsible for training and learning and development for Papa John’s employees… ‘a reflection of Papa John’s putting an even greater focus on our people and their development.’” At this point, this professional move by Boakye, who previously served as vice president of human resources at petroleum company Andeavor in San Antonio, is a bit of a win-win. If he makes things better, he’s a hero, and if he doesn’t, well, things were pretty messed up to begin with.

Boakye’s staff-focused hire is another recent progressive step by Papa John’s. In August, CEO Ritchie added a Progress Update to the Papa John’s website, in which he reported that “An independent cultural audit and investigation of our diversity and inclusion practices is underway, with actionable recommendations to follow.” It remains to be seen what kind of effect these corporate improvements will have on Papa John’s battered bottom line, but the company appears committed to moving forward.

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