An American in Moscow opts to keep Papa John's open in Russia

Franchisees in Russia decide what to do as U.S. brands pull their business from the country.

Updated: March 15, 2022 - 8:23am

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While Papa John's international announced last week that it was suspending its corporation operations in Russia, like other American brands including McDonald's and Starbucks, 190 Papa John's restaurants have remained open and are still operational.

These select Papa John's locations are owned primarily by Russians via a franchise agreement with an entity owned by Colorado native Christopher Wynne. Wynne has lived and worked part time in Russia for the better part of two decades.

"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," he told the New York Times.

Wynne says that though various Western sanctions being imposed on Russia make international financial transactions extremely difficult, internal Russian credit card systems are working the same way they always have. 

Wyneee says in this time of stress, during which "the vast majority of Russian people are very clearheaded and understand the dark gravity of the situation they’re in," everyone appreciates "a good pizza."

Ultimately, Russian-based franchisees across a variety of recognizable American brands are reluctant to shut down their operations because they, the owners, and not the franchises are the one who have assumed significant financial risk in opening the stores. Closures for franchisees could spell financial ruin. 

"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," said Wynne. "Papa John’s is worried about the corporate and political winds that, on a day-to-day basis, I cannot focus on."