Edmond Heelan tries his best to resist, but the 1990 communication alum winds up eating pizza two or three times a week.
It’s hard to fault him. As a Papa John’s executive, it’s part of his job. Heelan, 48, is senior vice president of North American Operations and Global Operations Support and Training for Papa John’s, the third largest pizza chain in the country.
And it’s not always Papa John’s pies that he is eating.
“I do try the competition regularly,” he says. “I like to check their quality, hospitality and facilities to make sure we are striving to be superior in all areas.”
From the company’s base in Louisville, Ky., Heelan supports the chain’s North American shops — 3,700 total — in the United States and Canada. Heelan and his team work to open new locations; offer business planning and marketing support to new and existing shops; and provide other assistance. He also guides a secret shopper program and leads a help desk that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, among other duties.
Around the world, he provides support to the company’s 1,200 shops outside the United States. Heelan leads a team that operates Papa John’s global training centers and creates training materials that are translated into the appropriate languages.
Over the years, the job has taken him to China, Malaysia, the Middle East, the United Kingdom and across the United States.
“I love being out in the field because those are the guys who are producing revenue for us,” says Heelan, who lives in Louisville with his wife and three children. “Getting out and seeing operations is really a key part of the job. Without happy franchisees, we’re not going to be a profitable company.”
In Raleigh, Heelan worked in the restaurant business throughout his college years. He went on to manage a small regional chain and later, open a sports bar and grill.
He joined Papa John’s in 2000 as a training coordinator, eventually working his way up to operate 15 North Carolina stores. The work eventually landed him at the corporate office. His promotion to his current position came in September 2015.
These days, the chain continues to focus on being a digital leader for the industry — more than half of Papa John’s orders come online now. It’s also growing the brand around the world.
“Our goal is to become the No. 1 pizza chain in the world,” Heelan says.
Heelan is doing his part with his regular pizza consumption. He doesn’t get fancy when he orders his favorite slice — plain cheese on Papa John’s original crust. But, he says, that’s not the only perk of the job.
“It’s fun,” Heelan says. “I love having fun at work. And it’s a founder-driven company. Although it’s a publically traded company, it feels like family.”
-Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
Note: This post originally appeared in the NC State Alumni Association’s Red and White for Life Blog.