On Wednesday, Killen's Barbecue announced a partnership with Papa John's Houston that is resulting in Killen's Barbecue Brisket Pizza. The brisket is actually coming from J Bar B Foods, per CultureMap, and the pizza will only be available from Feb. 18 to March 31 at Houston-area Papa John's stores for $17.99 in regular or thin crust sizes.
The availability of the pizza lines up with rodeo season, and the pizza will also be served at NRG Park during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
“We met Ronnie through our mutual partnership with the Houston Texans and knew immediately that he would be the perfect partner to create a pizza for us during rodeo season,” said Keith Sullins, president of Papa John’s Houston. “Besides, what’s better than having Killen’s Barbecue delivered to your door?”
The announcement sparked an essay by Eater questioning why Ronnie Killen would partner with Papa John's, a company whose founder John Schnatter (who was ousted as chairman but still has an ownership stake) has made racist remarks and has been accused of sexual misconduct. Certainly, some may avoid this pizza altogether because they don't want to support the embattled bad actor who founded the company, and some may also see this partnership as an irresponsible move by one of Houston's most popular names in food.
But there are obvious business reasons Killen would want to partner with a large pizza chain for a limited time. For one, both Killen's and Papa John's have strong relationships with NRG Park. Plus, as Killen hinted to CultureMap, a Killen pizza restaurant seems like an obvious next step. The Pearland barbecue master has already put his spin on burgers, steak, and Tex-Mex. Why not venture into the pizza game?