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The Margin: Papa Johns gets trolled over its new ‘pizza bowls’ that ditch the crust

Pizza lovers don’t seem bowled over by this idea. 

Papa Johns

recently revealed plans to dish out a crustless menu item that bakes its meats, veggies, tomato sauce and melted cheese in a bowl — called “Papa Bowls” — that come in three flavors: the Italian Meats Trio, Chicken Alfredo and Garden Veggie. Or, customers can create their own bowls using Papa Johns ingredients. 

We are very excited to offer Papa Bowls as a new menu category and as a new way consumers can experience our premium ingredients,” said Scott Rodriguez, Papa Johns senior vice president of menu strategy and product innovation, in a press release. “Our signature crust continues to be a beloved favorite, but we know that sometimes customers crave something different.”

But some potential customers aren’t biting this deconstructed pizza concept — especially after CNN tweeted that Papa Johns is cutting out the crust to “get people excited about pizza again.” 

Read more: Who needs pepperoni? Pineapple is becoming the trendy pizza topping

This led “Papa John” to trend on Twitter

on Wednesday afternoon, with one of the most common responses being that folks never stopped being excited about pizza — but some of them have lost their taste for Papa Johns pizza.

Indeed, pizza is an $8.1 billion market in the U.S., according to Mintel, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made easy, affordable comfort food available for delivery on demand — like pizza — even more popular.

Some downplayed the new menu item as merely another take on a salad — or worse, a “hot plastic tray of discarded pizza toppings.”  

And several viral tweets mentioned ex-Papa Johns CEO John Schnatter — who resigned as the company’s chairman and chief executive in 2018 after he confessed to using the n-word during a company conference call. Schnatter has also criticized the quality of the pizza company he started in 1984, such as in a viral 2019 interview where he said he ate 40 Papa Johns pizzas in 30 days, and “it just doesn’t taste as good” now that he’s gone. (He also later clarified that he actually tasted parts of 40 pizzas, rather than eating dozens of entire pies.)

Reps from Papa Johns were not immediately available for comment. 

The Papa Bowls became available exclusively for Papa Rewards loyalty members on Aug. 15, and will be served nationally beginning Aug. 22.

Meanwhile, other fast-food chains are trying to get a piece of the pizza-market pie — complete with crust. 

Buffalo Wild Wings announced on Wednesday that it’s adding pizza to the menu for the first time. The $9.99 Buffalo Wild Wings pizzas — which come in spicy “Buffalo” and sweeter “Honey BBQ” flavors — top a thin crust with boneless wings, melted cheese toppings and one of the sports bar’s signature sauces. These are already available to order.

And when Taco Bell brought back its “Mexican Pizza” in May after a two-year absence, it quickly became almost impossible to find after the Yum! Brands

chain was overwhelmed by the sudden demand.

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