Papa John's: Large demand for 23-cent pizzas leads to 'rainchecks'

7:33 AM, May 9, 2008   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- Papa John's pizza made good on its promise to apologize to Cavs fans and the promotion is getting more response than anyone could have imagined. Photos of long linesPhotos from Shaker Heights location Eighty-six stores in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Youngstown took part in the promotion and at the beginning of the day were prepared to each sell 900 pizzas. Click for related story and map of stores in Cleveland area It's a way of apologizing to the Cavs and fans after a D.C. restaurant owner printed shirts calling LeBron James a "crybaby" for complaining about referee calls during the Wizards play off series. The 23 cents corresponds to James' number 23 jersey.

Photos of aerials from various sites

Below is a list of list of information at some of the locations from Channel 3 News crews and tip calls coming into the Channel 3 Newsroom. (Times are approximate).

  • 9:02 p.m. Papa Johns in Euclid will be serving until 10 p.m. Those that are left standing at 10 will not get a pizza but will receive a raincheck.
  • 7:13 p.m. Channel 3's Michael O'Mara reports that Papa John's is trying to get "rainchecks" to prevent any issues when thye run out tonight.
  • 6:00 p.m.'s Kim Wendel reports police are putting up barricades in the parking lot in front of the Shaker Heights store because so many children are running in and out of traffic.
  • 5:20 p.m.'s Kim Wendel on site in Shaker Heights reports crowds have not diminished. But the businesses in the same area of Papa John's are upset and have posted angry signs in their store windows. Their customers have been unable to get inside because of the enormous line extending from the Papa John's. (Play Video to see backlash). See the links below to Kim's blog.

  • 5:10 p.m. In an update from Papa John's corporate, a spokeswoman says supplies should last through dinner and that store closings may vary as supplies run out.

  • 5:03 p.m. Channel 3's Monica Robins reports that the line at the Papa John's at Lorain and Rocky River Drive in the Kamms Corners neighborhood wraps around the building. The crowd is under control, but Monica reports the traffic on Lorain is grid-locked.

  • 5:01 p.m. Police in Alliance and Wooster both say that reports that the crowds had gotten out of hand in those locations are unfounded. The situation in both locations is said to be under control.

  • 4:42 p.m. A statement from Papa John's says because of the tremendous response to the 23 cent pizza promotion, the restaurant chain may run out of pizza supplies earlier than expected. This is a one day only promotional event and when the 75,000 pizzas have been sold, the promotion will end.

    Here is the entire release from Papa John's:
    "The response to the 23-cent pizza offer in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Youngstown and the surrounding areas has been terrific. We salute Cleveland fans for coming out in incredible numbers and showing their support for their hometown team.

    As a mid-day update, even though we prepared our stores to make more than 75,000 pizzas today, this great response may mean we'll run out of product and if we do our restaurants will close for the balance of the day. If we do run through the supply, by then we will all have helped raise a lot of money for the LeBron James Family Foundation.

    If you are calling our restaurants and receiving a busy signal or no answer, we apologize and appreciate your patience. The call volume is tremendous.

    Papa John's appreciates the positive response."

  • 3:47 p.m. We made a round of calls to some of the surrounding cities to see how stores there are faring. Brunswick is reporting major traffic issues and are sending police to direct traffic at Rt 303 and Pearl Road. Mentor reports that the crowds have been huge and the line at the Painesville Township location wraps around the building. Parking issues but no major problems reported in Parma where customers have filled the parking lot Papa John's shares with other businesses in a strip mall. Westlake reports traffic is getting messy and sent officers in to help during the lunch rush. A gas leak on the other end of the shopping center is not affecting the pizza sales.

  • 3:45 p.m.'s Kim Wendel on site in Shaker Heights just checked with that store's manager who says there are plenty of ingredients on hand that should get that store through to the 11 p.m. promotion deadline. However, the wait in that location is 3 hours. So you'd need to be in line by 8 p.m. Also now that school is out the crowd at that location is growing quickly. Read Kim's story

  • 3:36 p.m. A caller from Cuyahoga Falls told Channel 3's Eric Mansfield that they are worried about all the traffic created by the promotion. The caller says "it's insane" out there. The traffic is backed up on State Road across the bridge.

  • 3:35 p.m Channel 3's Mike O'Mara is reporting that an arrest has been made at the Euclid location. The customer was arrested for disorderly conduct.

  • 3:20 p.m. The manager at the Euclid location tells Channel 3's Mike O'Mara that because of the overwhelming demand, it is likely the store will run out of pizzas by 8 p.m. Once the pizza is gone, the promotion ends at the store. There will be no rainchecks given to those remaining in line.

  • 2:55 p.m. Channel 3's Eric Mansfield reports that Akron police have been called out to the East Market Street location for unruliness with people pushing and shoving each other.

  • 2:50 p.m. Report of a possible fight in the line at an Akron restaurant.

  • 2:30 p.m. Channel 3's Mike O'Mara reports that police have Papa John's to hire at lease two security officers for the duration of the promotion. There are concerns about unruly customers jumping in line and traffic tie-ups.
    The Euclid Police officers on the scene have strongly suggested that Papa John's hire at least two security officers to make sure the long line stays orderly. There are at least 12 hundred people currently waiting for their turn at this location on Lakeshore Boulevard.

  • 2:25 p.m. Channel 3's Mike O'Mara reports that police have been called out to the Euclid location to deal with people trying to jump in line.

  • 2:20 p.m. Papa John's in Euclid is asking that people not call. Orders are not being taken over the phone. Presumably this is the case at other locations where callers have been unable to get through. Papa John's however did say from the start that the promotion was for carry out orders only--no deliveries.

  • 2:00 p.m. Channel 3 director Matt Babb called in to report he finally had his 23 cent pizza at the Parma location--after waiting in line 3 hours and 20 minutes!

  • 1:55 p.m. Police have thrown three "line-jumpers" out from the location in Shaker Heights. People are starting to lose their patience, some walking away without pizza.

  • 1:10 p.m.'s Kim Wendel reports that the line has grown to nearly 2,000 in Shaker Heights. Some people in line since before 10 are just now getting their pizza. Police concerned about what happens when students released from school. Read the rest of Kim's blog using the link below.

  • 1:05 p.m. Akron police report that traffic was brought to a standstill on Route 8 south as drivers clogged the freeway earlier trying to get to the East Market location. The line of traffic stretched from the Buchtel/Carroll exit back to the Tallmadge Avenue Exit. Read more about the traffic jam and the Akron situation from

  • 12:30 p.m. Channel 3's Mike O'Mara and videographer are on site at the Euclid location at East 222 and Lakeshore. They report several hundred people in line with the crowd extending down past the corner. The location is NOT taking phone orders. The wait for pizza is more than 2 hours! The mood in the line is decribed as good. There have been a few people who tried to cut in line but they were shouted down by the crowd. The manager at the location says he's confident there will be enough pizza to meet the demand.

  • 12:15 p.m.'s Kim Wendel reports that an estimate 1,700 people are in line at the Shaker Heights store. People are parking from as far away as 3 blocks because there is not parking at the restaurant. Read the rest of Kim's blog/story

  • 12:00 p.m. Channel 3's Eric Mansfield reports there about 200 people in line at the West Market location in Akron. People tell Eric that the line started forming as early as 8:00 a.m. They have sent workers down the line to take orders in advance. But we're the wait at many of the locations is easily more than a hour.

  • 11:45 a.m. Line at the Shaker Heights store close to 1,000 as of around 11:30 a.m.

  • 11:30 a.m. Photo sent by Channel 3's Matt Babb shows a line snaking its way out of the Parma store.

  • 11:12 a.m. Tip caller in Mentor claims that Papa John's is telling customers it is not taking phone orders. (We are efforting information from Papa John's corporate on whether phone orders are being accepted for this promotion. Company already suspended on line orders for it.)

    Second caller in Mentor says they are receiving a message that the phone line has been disconnected. Another caller says that phones not ringing at all at Papa John's locations at 184th and Detroit and at 171st and Lorain.

  • 10:45 a.m Line grows to 300 at Shaker Heights location. Per's Kim Wendel, the line keeps growing at a rate of about 15 people ever 5 minutes.

  • 10:40 a.m. Traffic jam reported at the Shaker Heights location as the line reaches more than 220 people. But per reporter, Kim Wendel on scene, the mood of the crowd is good and even festive with the crowd chanting "Go Cavs!"

  • 10:40 a.m. Channel 3 news crew reports long line at the Lakewood loation on Detroit

  • 10:35 a.m. Channel 3's Carole Sullivan reports the line at the Berea restaurant location wraps around the building

  • 10:30 a.m. Tip caller says the line at the East 222 and Lakeshore location stretches down the block with more than 300 people in line.

  • 10:20 a.m. Papa John's suspends its on-line ordering and WKYC receives calls about not being able to get through when calling restaurants.

  • 10:00 a.m. Shaker Heights location chooses to open early and start selling pizzas after the line reaches more than 120 people.


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