A Toppers History Lesson Starts with Domino's Pizza
A Toppers History Lesson Starts with Domino's Pizza

From Domino's to Toppers, pizza industry veterans are helping the better-pizza brand thrive.

What do Scott Gittrich, Mark Watt, Kendall Richmond, Wayne Byers and Bill Stayduhar have in common? They’re all pivotal in helping Toppers Pizza redefine and dominate the competitive pizza industry. And all five of them used to work for Domino’s—arguably one of the biggest brands that Toppers is contending against as they fight their way to the top.

In 1984, Gittrich delivered his very first pizza as a driver for Domino’s. That job was the beginning of a lifelong love affair, and from that moment on, he knew he was destined to one day own his own pizza business. As Gittrich worked his way up the Domino’s ranks, he started saving as much money as any 20-something could. Then, with $30,000 in tow, he walked to a bank, applied for a loan and took a deep breath. His long-time dream had culminated into this single moment. Gittrich took a chance, and he left behind his job as director of operations for Domino’s (where he managed 22 franchise locations) to open his first Toppers in Champaign, Illinois.

“The founding vision of Toppers was to be the quality pizza delivery place. We would make our dough from scratch, use great ingredients and make funky combinations of pizzas using unique toppings. We wanted to be the antithesis of Domino’s, while still delivering just as fast—if not faster—as the corporate joints making cheap, homogenous pizza,” Gittrich said.

Since then, Toppers has been relentless in their climb to the top. Today, they’re pioneer the better pizza delivery category. They’ve grown from 46 to 73 restaurants in the past two years. In 2015, 73 percent of all stores boasted record sales, boosting overall system-wide sales up 22.5 percent from 2014. Toppers was even ranked second on PMQ/Technomic 2015 Pizza Power Report of sales percent increases of the top 50 chains, with Domino’s not even cracking the top five.

Gittrich’s journey has paved the way for many more Toppers leaders in the years to follow. Chief Financial Officer Kendall Richmond has been with the brand for nearly four years. But long before joining Toppers, he was a Domino’s franchisee for 12 years. Franchise Operations Director Mark Watt has been with Toppers since 2007, but prior to his current job, he worked with Domino’s as a general manager from 1992 to 1999. And Scott Iversen, the vice president of marketing for Toppers, has been with the brand for 13 years—back when they only had 10 stores. His story starts at Domino’s, too, where he served as a general manager and marketing manager for six years.

Many Toppers franchisees have followed the same path, too. Bill Stayduhar was a Domino’s franchisee from 1984 to 1997. Today, Stayduhar is nearing his 10-year-anniversary with Toppers, and he operates two locations in Charlotte, North Carolina—his first of which opened in 1997, right after he left Domino’s for a new opportunity. Stayduhar is now working on a deal to secure five additional stores in the Charlotte metro area.

Wayne Byers’ story is similar. Upon graduating college, Byers became a Domino’s store manager, with his sights set on one day owning a franchise. After successfully working his way to partner of a 55-store Domino’s franchise, he left the brand behind to pursue a fresh, new concept that offered him greater development potential. To Byers, Toppers represented the ultimate opportunity—a growing brand with a unique take on traditional menu items.

Upon signing with Toppers, Byers made it a priority to bring these exclusive Toppers favorites to the Chapel Hill, North Carolina community. Toppers was the first delivery brand to capture the cheesy-bread marketplace with its famous Topperstix. The brand never shied away from innovation either. With unconventional toppings like French fried onions, tater tots, pulled pork and Mac ‘N Cheese, Byers’ decision to leave behind his 55 Domino’s store to start from scratch with Toppers was an easy one.

Today, he owns two stores, and he recently partnered with another franchisee to open three additional stores in the Raleigh, North Carolina area.

“Many established pizza companies have reached maturity—it’ll be hard for them to ever change. I wanted to experience professional growth with an emerging brand. Toppers has carved its own path in the crowded marketplace, and I’m proud to be a part of it,” Byers said.

To learn more about Toppers Pizza, click here.