Papa John’s CEO Talks Workers’ Wages, Says Drivers Make Close to $20

After past comments that made him sound bad, it looks like the CEO is trying to jump in front of this issue in a positive way.

schnatterPapa John’s CEO John Schnatter brought up a hot button topic while being interviewed for the Inc. GrowCo Conference: workers’ wages.

In his remarks, which Business Insider says were almost a “non sequitur,” Schnatter says his workers are well-paid.

“Remember, I don’t pay anyone minimum wage. The average driver makes way closer to 20 bucks an hour than 10,” he says. “If we’re not taking care of our people, we’re going to lose good people at every level.” You can watch a clip of this portion of the interview here.

The comments are address an issue the company has been trying to get a handle on for some time. BI notes that “several” Papa John’s franchises in New York have been subpoenaed for under-paying their workers. This at a time where the minimum wage is being fiercely debated. A company spokesperson told the site that the investigation is looking more closely at restaurants that aren’t corporate-owned. Still, it’s damaging to the company’s reputation.

Papa John’s is also being sued by drivers for the ways in which they’re reimbursed for expenses.

Last year, Schnatter went on record talking about his own wealth and the $7.58 million home he owns in Louisville, Ky. While showing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney around, he commented, “You know, if a Democrat were here, he’d look around and say no one should live like this. Republicans come here and say everyone should live like this.”

Moreover, he added, “When you have built a $3 billion company out of a broom closet, I think you are entitled to a nice house.” It was one of three homes he owned. A former SVP of marketing for Papa John’s told USA Today  that Schnatter “has a passion for being wealthy.”

Around that time, he was also facing backlash over remarks about the Affordable Care Act, saying the health insurance law would push the cost of pizza up 14 cents and some franchisees would have to cut hours to pay for the law. The company had to hire Sitrick & Co to help sort out its messaging as a result.

Without having met the man and trying not to pass (too much) judgment, Schnatter has come off like a jerk with some of his past comments. For someone who says he worked his way up to the wealthy and successful status he’s attained, he sounds as though he has no empathy for the many people who work for him, aren’t as wealthy as he is now, and contribute to his continued business achievements. Jumping out and talking about how much the company’s workers make is a good way to provide a hard number demonstrating the company is making attempts to be fair to its workers.

In actuality, the interview was intended to address questions about healthy eating and fast food.

“Pizza is really nutritious, it’s good for you… you can’t sit down and eat a whole pizza,” he says at one point. The House just passed regulations that would waive the requirements for fruit and other healthy foods in school lunches. At one point in the not-too-distant past, pizza was labeled a vegetable. Schnatter might want to make sure he’s got his messaging right on this topic as well.

Image via @IAmPapaJohn