Papa John’s opened up with much fanfare 8 years ago at the Do Talwar intersection Clifton. Unfortunately for them, Pizza Hut had already seeped into the psyche of the Pakistani consumer so much so that Papa John’s brand of pizza was rejected largely by the populace.
Unable to afford the exorbitant cost of real estate at Do Talwar, Papa John’s moved into an obscure location on Khayabane Rahat where it gradually carved out a niche for itself.
Recently Papa John’s has shifted gears, opening up a new outlet on the happening Rashid Minhas Road almost adjacent to Pizza Hut, in addition to coming up with a slurry of promotional deals to match Pizza Hut, not to mention a buy one get one free coupons in the Homexpress magazine.
Although the location is good, the exact position is not the greatest, in fact quite amusing. Papa John’s is housed on the 1st floor of a building, and ironically sandwiched between two ominous organizations: Agha Khan Laboratory and Metlife Insurance.
We tested the facility on a Saturday night, a time which is a rough barometer of the success of a food joint.
The place, although not completely deserted, wasn’t bustling with activity either. This could mean one of three things:
1. the target market is not yet aware of its deals,
2. the deal itself is not that lucrative, or
3. consumers still don’t like Papa John’s version.
The last point is gradually losing steam. There are four types of pizzas en vogue in Karachi: the bakery type, the Pizza Hut, Papa John’s and Domino’s. All the rest are clones of these types, with Pizza Hut being cloned the most, and is thus losing its allure.
People want something different, and Papa John’s and Domino’s are the shining knights in armour offering that change. And to ensure that, both Papa John’s and Domino’s are furiously emulating Pizza Hut’s strategy of deals and stuff to capture a substantial chunk of the consumer’s heart.
Major differentiating factor between Papa John’s and Pizza Hut is the dough. While Pizza Hut’s crust is all fluffed up courtesy generous use of baking soda, Papa John’s seems to be completely devoid. It is more like the desi roti which comprises of two layers. The topping is more or less similar to Pizza Hut’s.
The promotional deal Papa John’s is offering right now has a couple of shortcomings, the biggest being you cannot choose of their star pizzas like Super Papa, All Meat and Little Italy with that deal. It’s a bad strategy because if you’re not going to allow your potential customers a trial of your best offerings (which is the real purpose of any deal), how are you going to make them fall in love with your brand for life?
Secondly, the scheme has been going on for too long now. The longer it lasts, the more people will come to take it for granted and refrain from trying out the real menu at the actual prices.
Coming back to our epicurean expedition, we opted for their special deal ‘Papa Choice 2’ which comprises of two regular pizzas (9”), two garlic sauce cups, a pitcher of soft drink, and four peperrocini peppers at a price of Rs.892 inclusive of tax.
For the two regular pizzas, due to deal restrictions we chose Pepperoni Pizzaz which is supposed to be loaded with pepperoni and extra mozzarella cheese, and New Orleans Jazz which comprises of fajita chicken, green peppers, onions, garlic sauce and red pepper sprinkled on top.
The garlic sauce wasn’t really a garlic sauce. It was melted butter with garlic essence. Although it wasn’t bad, it was extremely rich as you would expect butter to be and not for the faint of heart. Sauce would have been a far better option. Peppers were good.
We also tasted their salad bar not part of this deal at Rs.173. It was the usual, the same type you are used to at pizza hut or any other pizza parlour, right down to the sauces, but taste-wise Papa John fared better than pizza hut.
Finally the pizzas. If you look at the complete picture of the pizzas, it will appear that the topping is scarce. Now look at the images of the individual slices and you’ll see the topping is sufficient. Yes, the ends of the crust could have been covered easily with topping. At least then Papa John could have claimed to be one league above Pizza Hut in the toppings department.
Now the taste. The Pepperoni was a bit of a disappointment. One reason was that the pepperoni was razor-thin unlike any we’ve seen or tasted so far, and it didn’t taste fresh enough. Papa John would do well to slice fatter pieces. Secondly the description claimed that the mozzarella was extra but we didn’t detect any generous topping of it compared to our other pizza.
The Jazz fared better than the Pepperoni, although we didn’t detect the garlic sauce essence claimed in the description.
Papa John has a distinct taste which should appeal to the palette of our ‘ever searching for the new culinary experience’ public. Although it has finally realized the potential of marketing its brand, it would do well to market its distinctiveness more aggressively if it is to compete with the likes of Pizza hut and Domino’s.