Fifteen years ago, I was in Year Two of what would be a four-year stint working at Pizza Hut in Olean, NY as a shift manager. One thing I remember from back then was the way upper management was constantly exhorting us to compare ourselves to other restaurants. "Are we as good as McDonald's? Are we as good as Burger King?" And so on. And it wasn't just the chains that were already in place, either -- they were constantly kvetching over the places that hadn't even come into our region yet.
For instance, there's a chain of fast-food Italian restaurants called Fazoli's that announced that it was coming into Western New York, and they were coming hard, with lots of locations. Cue the ensuing panic amongst the Pizza Hut folks. We had to be on our toes! We had to be ready! Well, Fazoli's came...and went. They opened, there was much fanfare, they operated for a while, and within five or six years, they all closed. So much for them.
There was an even scarier chain out there, though. This chain had the higher-ups at PH quaking in their boots. We heard their name invoked at every major meeting we attended, and our store managers brought back the latest rumors from every major meeting they attended. This other chain was coming. They were expanding very quickly, and when they finally touched down in WNY, we were going to have all we could handle keeping our business. The chain?
Which, as it happened, never came.
There was never a Papa John's, not one, while we worked for PH, not even as late as fall 2000, when The Wife left PH to work somewhere else. We wouldn't even see a Papa John's until fall of 2002, when we moved to Syracuse. We ordered from there once, we kinda liked it, but it wasn't anything special. And wouldn't you know it -- Syracuse's two or three Papa John's locations closed while we were living there. And six months later we moved back to Buffalo anyway.
Flash forward to this morning, when one of my Facebook friends posted something about the Papa John's pizza they ate last night. It seems that as of two months or so ago, Papa John's has finally touched down in Western New York. With a single location. I, of course, no longer care, having (a) left Pizza Hut as an employee almost thirteen years ago, and (b) having pretty much sworn off chain pizza anyway.
But I do wonder if the local PH higher-ups are still nervous about Papa John's.