Papa John’s admits it let the pizza hit the sidewalk not too long ago. As the number of stores grew and sales soared, consistency and service began to suffer. The company managed to stick to its fresh ingredients concept, but independent testing revealed quality-control problems.

Customers were turned off by things as simple as all the toppings piled in the middle of the pie or dough bubbles that caused the cheese to slide to one side. So the 20-year-old company, led by founder John Schnatter, retrenched and reinvested in new proprietary processes to ensure customers consistently receive the same quality pizza and service.

“As John says, we’re back in the pizza business,” says chief financial officer David Flanery. “For the past two years, we’ve been drumming on the franchisees, in a positive way. We’ve shown them that the process works, and we say, ‘Here’s what we can do to help.’ ”

It seems to be working. In spite of predicted pizza doom thanks to the national low-carb craze, Papa John’s is prospering. Its January same-store sales were up four percent — and that’s without the Super Bowl. In fact, Papa John’s turned a profit four out of the last five months, and it’s ready to spread the news. Expect new ads later this year, as well as possible new products. Flanery says, “We’re pretty excited about operationally getting back to our roots, and now we’re ready to shout about it.”