Toppers Pizza has never been shy about making one of its ambitions known to the rest of the world: stealing the spotlight from some of the key players in the industry. Thanks to steadfast growth plans, enhanced technology and a drive to never settle, the innovative pizza chain has been suiting itself up to compete head-to-head with the largest pizza chains in the U.S. This tenacity is paying off in a big way—in 2015, 73% of all stores boasted record sales, boosting overall system-wide sales up 22.5% from 2014. Toppers’ impressive sales growth led to being ranked second on PMQ/Technomic 2015 Pizza Power Report of sales percentage increases of the top 50 chains, with Papa John’s, Domino’s and Pizza Hut not even cracking the top five. Now, as Toppers closes out its record-breaking year and sets its sights on 2016, the brand’s goal is to gain an even bigger piece of the market share pie.
Competing with the big boys is no small order. But after growing from 46 restaurants to 73 in the past two years, the brand has yet to see a ceiling in any of their markets. One example from this year is a mature two-store market in Wisconsin with less than 40,000 households generated $2.56 million in revenue in 2015 versus $1.48 million in 2010, a $1.08 million increase in sales over five years. According to Toppers Founder and President Scott Gittrich, those numbers are no accident—it’s all part of the brand’s well-oiled plan to conquer the pizza industry.
“Simply put, our franchisee stole these sales from their local competitors by executing the Toppers system at a high level,” said Gittrich. “There wasn’t an additional $1.08 million in pizza being sold in that market – we stole it from our competitors. And that’s just one example. In the past five years, the number of stores in the system has tripled, and the average unit volume has increased by about 8 percent. This is an extremely encouraging statistic, because it proves that Toppers can thrive in any market and put up a good fight against the bigger chains.”
Gittrich credits much of Toppers’ success to the brand’s focus on recruiting franchisees with demonstrated multi-unit restaurant backgrounds to open a minimum of three to five stores in a reasonable time frame. Since that plan was enacted in 2015, three strong new franchisee groups representing 14 restaurants came on board. That’s why this year’s growth tactic continues to rely heavily on that proven strategy, and Toppers will continue expanding with existing franchisees and by recruiting only the most experienced restaurant operators.
With a strong expansion plan in place, Toppers’ next move in becoming an industry leader was to step up their technology game. In an era where online food ordering is set to overtake traditional telephone orders for the first time, a new and improved toppers.com was launched as an e-commerce site. Enhancements were made to simplify the online ordering process, and a new responsive design allowed customers to have a pizza delivered to their door with the touch of button on their smartphones—all designed with Toppers’ characteristic “Never Settle” aesthetic in mind. Since the new website was unveiled in August 2015, Toppers has already seen a noticeable spike in traffic, with nearly 40% of system-wide orders now being placed online—a 33% jump from 2014.
With forecasts predicting an even more competitive industry in 2016, Gittrich believes that all of these accomplishments in 2015 will put the brand one step closer to dominating the competition—and they still have more cards to play in the years to come.
“Everyone that works for Toppers Pizza, whether it’s a delivery driver, store manager or corporate employee shares the same drive to ‘Never Settle’ and we aren’t messing around when we say that,” said Gittrich. “The growth we have seen, the changes we have made to the way we recruit franchisees and the improvements we’ve imparted in our operations are all strategic moves to stay 10 steps ahead of the game. So many of the bigger companies out there are playing not to lose—meanwhile, we’re here and not afraid to shake things up and we’re playing to win. In the end, I think that truly gives Toppers the leading edge and will allow us to keep stealing market share from the bigger corporate chains.”