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Papa's got a Brand new Goss

Oct 1, 2006 12:00 AM

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Web Offset

Visitors to Papa John's 36-acre campus in Louisville, KY, soon notice some quirky details. Consider the stop signs on the property. At first glance, they look like, well, stop signs: familiar red octagons. But upon closer inspection, the signs are wordless — there's no “STOP” on those signs, just a picture of a big red tomato.

A stroll around the interior of Papa John's 133,000-sq.-ft. corporate headquarters yields several more surprises. See that chunky pebbled glass framing a doorway? Doesn't it look kind of like the surface of a pizza with everything on it? Looking for the company cafeteria? Take the elevator up to the third floor. When you get to the corridor that looks like a Tuscan street, keep going past the trellised-covered dining/meeting area until you get to the Papa John's store, which looks exactly like the restaurant in your neighborhood and thousands of others. Stop in and enjoy a slice at a special price: just $1 for employees and their guests. If you see a giant, floor-to-ceiling reproduction of a pizza box, you'll know you've gone too far — the test kitchen and quality assurance lab are over that way. And if you thought you saw a vaguely familiar face hidden among the faux clouds painted on the ceiling mural — congratulations! You've spotted a portrait of Papa John himself, company founder John Schnatter.

Bringing pizza and printing together
To fully grasp Schnatter's imaginative and entrepreneurial spirit, you have to visit an adjacent 36,400-sq.-ft. building, which is officially called “Preferred Marketing Solutions” but might more accurately be described as a well-equipped printing plant.

How Schnatter got into the printing business about a decade ago is typical of the pizza tycoon's famous and unrelenting quest for quality. “John knew it took print to move pizza,” explains Ted Hagler, director of manufacturing and quality assurance for Preferred Marketing Solutions. “He wanted a printer with consistent service, quality and pricing. He couldn't find one, but he eventually found one printer doing these things better than most.”

Much like Victor Kiam of Remington electric razor fame, Schnatter liked the printer (and potential attendant economies of scale) so much he bought the company. And that's why Papa John's world headquarters now boasts an Artwork Systems' Nexus workflow driving a Kodak Lotem platesetter, two web presses and a Heidelberg SM 74 DI, as well as a bunch of Epson proofers, and EFI's PSI and Autocount providing a constant stream of real-time operational information.

One of Preferred Marketing Solutions' web presses is an older King press; the newest addition is a Goss Sunday 2000 installed this past June.

“We added the Sunday press because the same principles driving our pizza business are driving our commercial web business — product quality, service and price,” explains Hagler. “Goss has provided advanced technology that will allow us to increase quality, productivity and efficiency while cutting down job turnaround times for our customers.”

Goss is boss
The new press is equipped with an Ecocool dryer, in-line finishing capabilities and a sheeter to produce high-quality direct mail products and freestanding inserts (FSIs).

“This system doubles our current productivity speeds and triples our overall capacity,” Hagler says.

The plant has 113 employees across three shifts, 24 hours a day, six (and often seven) days a week. Prior to installing the new press, Preferred Marketing Solutions had a problem any printer would envy: Sometimes it had to turn down jobs because the King press was fully booked.

Pizza-company work currently accounts for 60 percent of Preferred Marketing Solutions' overall job mix, but commercial work is expected to grow significantly. “By 2010, we know we will have twice as much commercial vs. Papa John's work,” says Hagler.

The printing operation can perfect and standardize certain Papa John's print jobs and apply this expertise to similar work for external customers. “Papa John's is continuing to grow, and that's our point of differentiation,” says Hagler. “We can take products that we've done very well with for the Papa John's system and even other retail systems or franchises, and say, ‘This is what does and doesn't work.’”

Hagler explains that while Preferred Marketing Solutions is located onsite at Papa John's headquarters, it is a Papa John's wholly-owned subsidiary, rather than an in-plant printer. “Just like any other public company, we have monthly P&L and quarterly expectations to meet,” he says.

Papa John's franchisees can use an online ordering system, “Serving Location Integrated Communication Engine” (S.L.I.C.E.) to order FSIs, box-top coupons, door-hangers, ingredients flyers and the like. “These guys don't have to do business with us,” says Hagler. “They're not bound by contract — we have to earn their business. The biggest reason we got the Goss press wasn't just to enhance and add more quality to the Papa John's system, it was to give us the opportunity to get more commercial business.”

Hagler notes operational costs are much better if the printing operation can leverage its assets. “You get a much cheaper price if you're running three shifts vs. a traditional in-plant with one or two shifts. That's why [some in-plants'] hourly rates are so high.”

A typical commercial job might be a promotional piece destined for a shared mail program, such as those offered by Vertis or Advo. “Every day we take multiple companies' jobs, [gang] them on the same web sheet and run them together,” explains Hagler. “We will then ship them side by side. The magic is that we use multiple people to gain productivity. We're leveraging our assets to deliver better pricing for our customers.”

Hold the folder, please
When evaluating new press options, Hagler and the Preferred Marketing Solutions' team had a clear idea of what they wanted. “We are a short-run web house,” says Hagler. “More specifically, we are a short-run sheeted-product web house. We knew our market niche — the cutsheet market for FSI, door hangers and that kind of product.”

Preferred Marketing Solutions handles some folded work, but it's always done offline. Typical jobs are “simple four-pagers, letterfolds and eight-pagers,” says Hagler. “We don't do a lot of books.”

Forgoing a folder on the Sunday 2000 provides a competitive advantage. “Because we aren't setting up or breaking down that folder, we can run the press with two- or three-person crews,” says Hagler. “That helps keep our price per thousand down.”

Hagler researched long perfectors with sheeters, but found press speeds lacking. “There's a big difference in running 50,000 to 60,000 sph vs. 20,000 sph,” he says. “While we need high quality (in our market, that's a given), we're generally selling pleasing color. There's no doubt we can get there on the Goss with the QTI Color & Register Control all day long, matching four-color process to a proof.”

Although the company has a couple of one- and two-color presses on hand that were used previously to imprint four-color shells, the Sunday 2000's short-run capabilities are changing the game. “We're taking short runs clear down to 4,000 cutoffs on our web,” says Hagler. “We're up to color in less than 500 cutoffs on the Goss press. With our paper savings and makeready effort, we regularly do black-plate changes on the fly on both presses in less than seven minutes. When you start getting down to those numbers, you're competing with a sheetfed press room.”

Cost per thousand is king
Preferred Marketing Solutions considered about eight press vendors. “What really won it for us with Goss was the quick relationship that we established,” Hagler explains. [Salesperson] Mike Shaw comes from a technical background similar to mine and was able to help put together a quick ROI. That's what's important to us.”

To achieve its goals, Preferred Marketing Solutions needed to see an improvement in cost per thousand. “That's where the rubber meets the road,” says Hagler. “Connectivity also was pretty important. We wanted a good integration with our prepress system.”

From the planning stages to press startup, Hagler found Goss easy to work with. “They were able to get this press, from concept to the first press sheet, built in less than six months,” he says. “After the press was delivered, we were up and running in less than eight weeks.”

According to Hagler, Preferred Marketing Solutions still has a few surprises in store, and not all involve print. “We have in-house Web service capabilities. We do targeted URL pieces that drive people back to Web sites. We currently do e-mail campaigns — by the end of 2007, we'll be doing all of that in-house, too. We're truly a full-service provider to people in the marketing world.”

About Papa John's
Before there was a Papa John's, there was a broom closet in the back of Mick's Tavern (Jeffersonville, IN). It was in this tiny space two decades ago that John Schnatter launched his pizza empire, now the third-largest pizza company in the United States.

In 1984, Schnatter financed his foray into the food business by selling his 1972 Z28 Camaro and investing the proceeds in some used restaurant equipment. Although it grieved Schnatter to part with his beloved Chevy, it soon proved to be a profoundly profitable decision. The denizens of Mick's Tavern displayed a ravenous enthusiasm for Schnatter's pies. He soon expanded into an adjoining space, a move that eventually lead to the opening of the first Papa John's restaurant in 1985.

Today, Papa John's boasts almost 3,000 restaurants in 49 states and 20 international markets.

About Goss International
Brothers Fred and Sam Goss founded The Goss Printing Press Co. in 1885. The company can claim bragging rights for many industry firsts: the straight-line newspaper press (1892); the newspaper web offset press (1962); and the “four-high” newspaper press capable of printing four colors on each side of a web (1978). In more recent times, Goss has led the way with gapless blankets, selective binding, automatic plate changing and other innovations.

The gapless Sunday 3000 press was introduced in 1993, allowing high-quality printing on wider webs at up to 3,000 fpm or 100,000 impressions per hour. Additional models followed, including the Sunday 2000 for commercial applications and shorter runs, and the Sunday 3000/32 press with a world first “2 x 8” design. In February 2002, Goss Intl. Corp. acquired substantially all of the assets of Goss Graphic Systems. In August 2004, Goss Intl. acquired Heidelberg Web Systems and is now one of the world's largest web offset printing and finishing solution providers. See

Have press, will travel
Hagler brings a broad range of experience to his job. After graduating from high school and serving a five-year stint in the Air Force, Hagler worked for R.R. Donnelley in Crawfordsville, IN. “That's where I learned printing,” he recalls. “I got a bachelor's degree in business administration, but all my printing knowledge comes from Jack DeBusk. He taught me everything — what you've got to be looking for on the plant floor, even a set of metrics to work from.”

Boom times at Shepard Poorman
After five years with Donnelley, in the late 1980s, Hagler joined Shepard Poorman Communications Corp. (St. Louis), which Cenveo later acquired. “We grew from $29 million to about $50 million before I left about six years later,” he says. “Under the leadership of Bob Purvis, I refined some of the processes I learned at Donnelley. It was a smaller operation, more nimble and faster growing.”

Hagler went on to join Fetter Printing (Louisville, KY). “They were heavily into direct mail and I had the opportunity to work there in production management and later as a plant manager,” Hagler says.

Coming from a strong commercial print background, he initially had some misgivings about joining what was then called Papa John Support Services. “I've been a commercial printer all my life,” he says. “I didn't want to be in a stagnant in-plant situation or where someone might [suddenly] decide they're done with you.”

Hagler soon found that the entrepreneurial spirit at Papa John's matched his own competitive drive.

“The company is very performance driven and that gives us the opportunity to drive metrics down to the operator level,” he says.

Investing in ROI
Although the print division is challenged to deliver considerable ROI, Hagler says the parent company has provided the resources necessary to succeed. “Because of past performance, they've been willing to [make the necessary equipment investments].”

If it were considered a standalone print operation (rather than rolled up with the rest of Papa John's ventures), Preferred Marketing Solutions would be in the $30 million range. “That's not small,” say Hagler. “It's also not huge, but we're working on it!”

Papa John's philosophy
Preferred Marketing Solutions operates in accordance with Papa John's “Core Values”:

Focus | We must keep The Main Thing, The Main Thing. We will consistently deliver a traditional Papa John's superior-quality pizza.

Accountability | We do what we say we are going to do when we say we are going to do it. We earn the right to hold others to a higher level of accountability by being accountable to ourselves, our customers and our business partners.

Superiority | Our customer satisfaction must be consistent, quantifiable and demonstrable. At Papa John's we expect excellence — the “best in its class” in everything we do.

P.A.P.A | People Are Priority Always. Our success depends upon our ability, as a team, to work together to achieve our goals and expectations.

Attitude | If you think you can or you think you can't — you're right! The difference between winners and losers is a positive mental attitude. Our attitude is a reflection of what we value: Successful team members must be upbeat, proactive and passionate about everything they do.

Constant Improvement | We never stop trying to surpass our previous best. We constantly “Raise the Bar.” No matter how good we are, we will always get better.


Katherine O'Brien is the editor of American Printer. Contact her at