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Papa Johns, eager for more unit growth, inks a 50-unit development deal

The Bajco Group will open 50 restaurants in the Midwest, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Florida, as the pizza chain works to increase domestic development.
Nadeem Bajwa
Franchisee Nadeem Bajwa, standing, at the 2023 Papa Johns Franchisee Conference. | Photo courtesy of The Bajco Group.

Papa Johns on Tuesday said it has inked a 50-unit development deal with the Bajco Group, an existing operator that will expand the brand’s presence in the Midwest, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Florida.

The franchisee will develop the new locations by the end of 2028, adding to franchisee Nadeem Bajwa’s 200 existing locations. Bajwa’s Bajco Group is one of Papa Johns’ largest operators.

The development agreement is key for Papa Johns, which is eager to speed up unit growth domestically. The brand in November added a new incentive to encourage operators to open new units, waiving the marketing fund for those locations for their first five years.

That will cut about 600 basis points of costs from new units during that period, company executives said in February.

Papa Johns operates about 3,200 locations in the U.S. But unit count grew 1.3% last year, slower than the 2.5% growth from much larger rival Domino’s. Thus, the company is working to improve its development strategy in addition to the incentives, with key hires to bolster its North America development team.

“We’re really trying to kickstart this engine,” former CEO Rob Lynch told investors. He has since agreed to take the CEO job at Shake Shack.

Papa Johns currently has 100 units under various stages of development in the U.S., the company said.

Bajwa is the type of franchisee most brands love growing with. He started as a delivery driver in 1992. He later became an operator and has since built the brand’s largest franchisee group in North America.  

“Signing this deal, I am as excited today as I was 20 years ago when I opened my first restaurant,” Bajwa said in a statement. “Papa Johns is not just about business. My team members are my family, and that’s a whole different ballgame.”

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