Turns out Papa John’s can get along just fine without founder John Schnatter—even in the midst of a global pandemic.

According to its current CEO Rob Lynch, April was Papa John’s best month in history, with an increase of nearly 27 percent in comparable sales for North America. And while rival pizza giants like Domino’s and Pizza Hut have thrived as pizza-hungry customers place more delivery orders during the pandemic, Lynch told CNBC that the coronavirus outbreak wasn’t the only factor contributing to the growth.

Related: Pizzerias are outperforming other restaurants during pandemic

“We said about 10 percent of that can be attributed to the tailwind of [COVID-19] and the new behaviors,” Lynch said. “So that means there is double-digit growth that is built in around other things.”

These “other things,” he said, include new menu items—such as the Papadia sandwich—third-party delivery and an improved customer rewards program—all implemented before the coronavirus pandemic. “We have 1 million new customers coming into the franchise,” Lynch told CNBC. “A lot of those coming in are through our loyalty program.”

Related: How the pandemic became the pizza industry’s finest hour

According to Jonathan Maze of Restaurant Business, Papa John’s loyalty program now has 16 million members. Maze also reported that the chain will soon end providing financial assistance to struggling franchisees, put into place in 2018 due to sales declines in the wake of the Schnatter scandal.

“Our franchisees are incredibly happy right now,” Restaurant Business quotes Lynch as saying on the company’s quarterly earnings call. “The health of their restaurants is the best it’s been in the last three years.”


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