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190 Papa John’s stores in Russia still open: ‘At the end of the day, they appreciate a good pizza’

Matt Rourke / Associated Press

About 190 Papa John’s stores are still open in Russia despite the international pizza chain’s announcement that it was suspending its corporate operations in the country over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to a New York Times report published on Monday.

The Papa John’s restaurants are primarily owned by Russians through a franchise agreement with a company controlled by Colorado native Christopher Wynne, who told the Times that Russians are “clearheaded and understand the dark gravity of the situation they’re in” and that “at the end of the day, they appreciate a good pizza.”

“The best thing I can do as an individual is show compassion for the people, my employees, franchisees and customers without judging them because of the politicians in power,” Wynne told the newspaper.

The Hill has reached out to Papa John’s for comment.

Last week, Papa John’s announced the suspension of its corporate operations in Russia, joining other high-profile international companies such as Starbucks and McDonald’s.

The international pizza chain, 8 percent of whose global stores are located in Russia, also said it would donate food and make financial donations to aid Ukrainian refugees.

Papa John’s told the Times in a statement that its decision to suspend operations in Russia was “supported by the vast majority of our team members, franchises, customers and communities around the globe.”

But though franchised stores — common among large companies operating a high number of locations — may receive support from their parent companies, they are primarily run by franchise owners, who have a greater financial interest in keeping individual stores open, the Times noted.

This dynamic has also complicated efforts to suspend operations in Russia for other fast food brands, such as Restaurant Brands International, the owner of Burger King, which has 800 franchised locations in the country, and Yum Brands, which operates KFC but only owns about 70 of the roughly 1,000 KFC restaurants located there, according to the Times.

Wynne, whose wife is Russian, told the Times that when Papa John’s said it was suspending support for Russian businesses including his, “our perspectives diverged fairly quickly.”

“I have a perspective where my interest is first and foremost my employees and franchisees and keeping the lines of cultural exchange with the Russian people open,” he told the newspaper. “Papa John’s is worried about the corporate and political winds that, on a day-to-day basis, I cannot focus on.”

Tags business operations Christopher Wynne Papa John's Russia-Ukraine Russia-Ukraine conflict
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