The big pizza chains serve their purpose: mediocre food; mediocre promises; mediocre connections. Toppers Pizza, a 44-unit eclectic pizza delivery franchise brand, doesn’t follow those characteristics. To prove its tasty promise to consumers, Toppers celebrated this reprieve with a huge grand opening celebration unmatched by the big guns at its new location in Fort Worth – marking the brand’s first opening in Texas.
On August 22, Toppers opened its first location in the state of Texas in Fort Worth (2911 West Berry Street). To celebrate the brand’s arrival into Texas, Toppers hosted a grand opening event on September 9, and gave the first 50 guests in line free food for a year and rewarded fans that day with prizes and giveaways.
“When we open a location, it truly is a celebration. No fake grand openings with boring ribbon cuttings. We go for the grand slam with the way we open, the way we connect with our customers, and the tastes we offer on our menu,” said Scott Gittrich, CEO of the emerging chain and former Domino’s Pizza delivery driver. “Trust me; I quickly learned what not to do with our customer bonds. This is their party, not ours.”
When Gittrich decided to rebel against big box pizza chains, he did so with a methodical vision to test and test again every aspect of his pizza-concept. Starting off with the simple goal of recapturing the magic of a made-from-scratch pizza in a sea of cookie cutter chains, Gittrich laid the foundation for his vision. Nearly 20 years later, his Whitewater-based pizza brand is showcasing its growth potential, as it now comes armed with 44 locations and an incredible average unit volume ($932,761) plus average per unit net profit ($131,341).
Along with its ability to tap into the most influential demographic, 18-34 year olds, Toppers has made a name for itself as innovators of unique menu items. Toppers was the first delivery brand to capture the cheesy bread marketplace with its famous TopperstixTM. Toppers has never shied away from innovation with its Mac ‘N Cheese, Potato Topper, Cool C-B-R (Chicken-Bacon-Ranch), and Hangover Helper House Pizzas, Buffalo Wings, Quesadillas, Grinders, and dozens of other menu items. Differentiating itself from the competition, 70 percent of Toppers’ sales come from items not traditionally found on competitors’ menus.
The Fort Worth location will be the first Toppers Pizza location owned and operated by Heidi and Jim McGregor. Heidi works in pre-hospital sales for one of the world’s leading medical technology companies and Jim currently owns an ambulance dealership called Professional Ambulance. After recognizing a lack of late-night food delivery options, the couple saw the value in bringing Toppers to the area, marking this as their first venture into the restaurant industry.
The new Fort Worth location is part of a larger growth strategy for Toppers Pizzas’ expansion beyond its core Midwest markets. Toppers seeks to open an additional five to six locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the next 2 years, and has plans to open 50 throughout the state of Texas. “The Dallas Fort Worth market is the ideal location to spearhead growth of Toppers in the state because of its dense population and vibrant culture,” said Mark Cairns, Director of Franchise Development for Toppers.
Beyond Fort Worth, Toppers’ 2012 footsteps are focused on its exponential growth plan to reach 150 restaurants by the end of 2015 and 500 by 2020. The company already has 30 new locations under contract to be built by the end of 2013. Currently, Toppers has 44 locations in Wisconsin, Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana and Nebraska. Upcoming openings include locations in Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, and Missouri.
“As we grow, like a balloon, out of Wisconsin and into surrounding states and then nationwide, we want to maintain a stronghold on top-tier franchisees. By doing so, we can maintain our core culture, our brand evolution, and our methodical growth pattern,” said Scott Iversen, Toppers Pizza Director of Marketing , noting that the new Fort Worth Toppers features the brand’s newest blueprint with an updated, vibrant, “chill”-friendly atmosphere.
When the big chains are down, Toppers has remained up, taking names and gripping its share of the $40-plus-billlion pizza industry. In 2011, Toppers increased average unit volumes and system-wide sales, opening four stores with 30 more under contract. Why the upswing?
“The reason for our success is simple, meaning that we are not one of the ‘Wal-Marts’ of the industry. The big chains have lost identity and brand connection,” Gittrich said. “Our customers are fanatical about our brand. Our quirkiness and edginess has given our brand character, so we have been able to continue our growth and bonding with an untapped national demographic: the 18-34-year olds.”
With a mission to be the best pizza company in the world by killing it on every detail of the customer experience, Toppers Pizza is a 43-unit eclectic pizza delivery franchise brand, headquartered in Whitewater, WI, takes a unique approach to the crowded pizza segment by appealing to the young, and young at heart in an irreverent way that totally separates them from the competition. Ranked in Entrepreneur Magazine’s top 500 franchises in 2011,Toppers’ menu includes 18 house pizzas; the franchise’s signature product line Topperstix; Oven-Toasted Grinders; Buffalo Wings; Quesadillas; and cold drinks. The brand has strongly established itself in Wisconsin, and is now in the midst of Midwest and then national growth. By focusing on Toppers’ demographic friendly markets, Toppers is able to continue its building of a fanatical relationship with its customer base. Toppers growth was celebrated in 2009 by Chain Store Age, an industry publication that measures quick service restaurant growth over the past five years, and ranked Toppers on their overachievers list of the Top 50 Fastest Growing Chain Restaurants in the United States. Toppers was also recognized as a member of the 2012 Future 50 by Restaurant Business, as one of the fastest growing emerging chains in America. For more information on Toppers, visit www.toppers.com.