As the world’s major pizza chains race to be the best low-cost provider of all things pizza to all people everywhere, Scott Gittrich, the founder and CEO of Toppers Pizza, realized an unmet need.
People craved something more than cheap, homogenous delivery—they wanted a better-tasting pizza and they wanted it fast. By taking the quality ingredients and innovative concepts often seen in the fast-casual world and offering it to their customers through quick delivery, Toppers emerged as a fierce competitor in the $40 billion pizza industry—and so far, this plan of attack is working. Backed by a better pizza, enhanced technology, a strong customer experience and steadfast growth plans, Toppers is well on its way to dominating the competition: the 2016 Technomic Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report recently ranked Toppers as one of the top-five fastest-growing and up-and-coming brands to watch in the entire limited-service pizza restaurant category.
Every year, Technomic, a Chicago-based food industry consulting and research firm, compiles a list of 500 restaurant chains that report winning sales and significant system-wide growth. In 2015, 73 percent of all Toppers stores boasted record sales, boosting overall system-wide sales up 22.6 percent from 2014, and, in the last two years alone, the brand has grown from 46 to 74 restaurants. This impressive growth led Technomic to rank the brand as one of the fastest-growing limited-service pizza restaurants in the U.S. Meanwhile, major chains like Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa John’s didn’t even crack the top five.
“We’ve been ranked by Technomic as one of the fastest-growing, emerging pizza chains for a reason—people are tired of not having a great choice for pizza delivery,” said Scott Iversen, vice president of marketing for Toppers. “Our advantage is that we can do exactly what all these bigger chains are doing, which is quick delivery, but with a huge advantage of offering a better, and much more high-quality product. That’s why, as we continue to grow, our goal is to never stop hustling—we want to continue showing more and more customers that they don’t have to settle for mediocre pizza.”
Better pizza isn’t the only thing adding to Toppers’ competitive edge. In an era where new technology is critical for concepts looking to remain relevant to younger consumers, more and more restaurants are intensifying their investments in delivery service to stave off the competition. Last year, a new and improved Toppers.com was launched as an e-commerce site. Enhancements were made to simplify and speed up the online ordering process, and a new responsive design allowed customers to have a pizza delivered to their door with the touch of a button on their smartphones. Since the new website was unveiled in August 2015, Toppers has seen a noticeable spike in traffic, with nearly 42 percent of system-wide orders being placed online—a 35 percent jump from 2014.
“Our website has really helped Toppers stand out from our competitors. From placing an order to the moment it’s delivered, the process is better, faster and more engaging. There are fewer clicks involved when placing an order. Building the perfect customized pizza is extremely intuitive. And once the order is placed, it’s delivered in as little as 25 minutes—our drivers will even run the pizza to your door from their car to ensure that the food is extra hot,” said Bridget Vetter, Toppers’ manager of marketing and public relations. “By investing in better technology, we’ve really been able to deliver a better customer experience all around, and that’s helped us achieve even stronger unit-level economics.”
With forecasts predicting an even more competitive industry in the years to come, Toppers plans to utilize its unrelenting drive to never settle and continue to go head-to-head against some of the country’s largest pizza chains. By continuing to recruit franchisees with strong multi-unit restaurant experience—a tactic that has already yielded three strong new franchisee groups representing 14 restaurants—Toppers aims to open 12 to 15 new stores in 2016. And that’s just the beginning.
“Being ranked by Technomic as one of the fastest-growing pizza chains is something we’re taking to heart. Our expectations are high for the future,” Iversen said. “Our goal is to open 25 percent more stores each year than the prior year. We plan to do this by continuing to up our game so that we’re better than the big chains in every way possible.”
To learn more about franchising opportunities with Toppers Pizza, click here.