For the team at Wisconsin-based Toppers Pizza, 2017 will go down as a landmark year in the company’s more than 25-year trajectory. The franchise will open 16 new locations before year’s end, tying with 2014 as the biggest year yet for growth.
“The concept continues to prove itself out. We've been in business now for 26 years and this will match our biggest year for openings. Momentum is tremendous, and it comes down to the core competencies of the brand. The restaurant industry overall has been shaky, but pizza maintains steady. We have the toppings and flavors that we have consistently delivered on our customer promise,” said Mac Malchow, director of national marketing and menu innovation for Toppers Pizza.
2017 also marked significant growth in new markets, with openings in three new states – Colorado, Wyoming and openings scheduled before the end of the year in Virginia – with plans to build out from those locations in the coming years and further saturate markets for enhanced brand recognition.
“Our best advertising is people experiencing our brand. One of our limits as a growing brand is that we have a smaller footprint right now compared to some of our competition,” said David Biederman, chief development officer for Toppers. “Opening in new markets gets more people access to our brand and is going to be good for our growth in the long run. The best franchise deals we make are always going to be with people who are familiar with and understand Toppers Pizza. The more people that experience Toppers Pizza, the better chance we have for continued growth.”
Beyond tying the record number of openings, Toppers Pizza achieved several other company milestones. The company continued to invest heavily in technology including furthering their online ordering initiatives and getting closer to a 50/50 split of online and phone ordering. Toppers also landed on Franchise Business Review’s annual survey of franchisee satisfaction as well as Franchise Times’s “Fast & Serious” list. Additionally, the company focused on reinvesting in the source of their name, toppings – planning to double down on R&D strategy to bring more bold and innovative menu items and LTO’s into the mix in 2018.
As they head into 2018 – and with a goal of reaching 200 locations by 2022 – the company is not planning to slow down.
"We should probably be taking a victory lap, but we have a lot of work to do,” said Scott Gittrich, founder and president of Toppers Pizza. “It's an interesting disruptive restaurant environment right now. Nothing is forever. You only look to the future. I'm proud of the team and what we've accomplished. We have a number of very successful franchisees who opened those 16 locations this year. I'm pleased and happy for them and what they're going to be able to do in the coming years. We have a lot of work to do in order to blow through 100 restaurants around this time next year."
One way that Toppers is strategically planning to grow is by investing alongside franchisees. The company signed deals to open new corporate-owned locations in Ohio and in Indiana that should both open in the new year. The plan calls for an additional 4-5 stores in 2018, and 5-7 more in 2019. With the corporate-fueled growth and momentum on the franchise development side, 2018 could prove to be an even bigger year than 2017.
“We have available territory in top tier markets that a lot of bigger brands don't. The market is already there - Domino's, Papa John's, and others are already in the market, but we can come in and steal market share. We're solid from top to bottom,” added Malchow.