Toppers Pizza, a growing better pizza brand based in Wisconsin, has its eyes on another piece of the American Heartland this year as the company is focused on expansion throughout the state of Kansas. With a goal of finding qualified operators starting in 2017, Toppers research indicates the state could support at least 20 locations.
Though more than 500 miles separate Toppers Pizza's headquarters in Whitewater, Wisconsin and Kansas City, that hasn’t stopped the brand from making the area a second home. Thanks to locals Kris and Sally Milligan, Toppers has successfully made its debut in the state, with the opening of their first location in Mission. And so far, Kansas seems to be a natural fit for the growing pizza company.
“We are very pleased with the reaction of the local community so far,” said Toppers Pizza Director of Franchise Development Mark Cairns. “The culture in Kansas matches that of our home market in Wisconsin.”
With the Mission location up and running, Toppers is now focused on introducing local restaurants throughout the state, with more stores planned for greater Kansas City, Wichita, and Topeka. In fact, based on initial reaction and success in Mission, the Milligans are already planning to open additional restaurants in their home market.
“So far, the quality of our pizza is really what’s resonating with our local customers,” said Kris Milligan. “People here in Kansas are down to earth; they tell it like it is. And they just don’t get the same level of service we give with the big guys.”
The Milligans have started construction on their second Toppers Pizza in Lawrence with a projected opening in fall 2017. The Lawrence location will open at 1100 Indiana Street Suite C, just blocks away from the heart of the University of Kansas campus and directly across from the university’s Memorial Stadium. Following the success that Toppers has enjoyed in close proximity to other colleges and universities, the team is excited to provide a convenient and late-night options for Jayhawk students just in time for the return to classes and football season.
This development in Kansas comes after a successful 2016 where the brand experienced tremendous growth including climbing sales and three signed multi-unit development deals that will ultimately add 41 new locations to Toppers’ ever-growing network. In the first half of 2017, Toppers Pizza will surpass 80 stores and the company has a goal of continuing to enter new markets and raise its national profile, ultimately reaching 200 units by 2022. The brand has enjoyed recognition from top industry publications and entities such as landing on Entrepreneur Magazine's ranking of the top 500 franchises in the U.S for the third year in a row in 2017 and landing on QSR Magazine's listing of the Best Franchise Deals.
Today, Toppers is primed for rapid franchise growth, especially in a relatively untapped state like Kansas.
“Territory is available, we have a ton of room to grow in Kansas,” said Cairns. “With the number of Toppers locations we feel could open in Kansas, we aim to provide not only delicious pizza and Topperstix, but also create more than 375 jobs in the state. The opportunity is there for the right partners looking to grow with us.”
Toppers Pizza is currently looking for those next franchisee partners, specifically to open multiple locations in the Wichita and Topeka markets.
The investment in a Toppers Pizza franchise ranges between $291,666 and $527,152. Franchise fees start at $30,000 for the first unit and decrease to $20,000 for the second and third units, $15,000 for the fourth and fifth, and only $10,000 for six and above. The brand also rolled out a new prototype to kick off 2017 which increases transparency and creates a more welcoming environment for guests, while enhancing the flexibility of the real estate footprint, which can range from 1,300 to 1,700 square feet--making it easier for franchisees to locate and sign for endcaps, inline stores, or freestanding locations.
Though it took a while for the Milligans to find the perfect site for their first location in Mission, they now say the market is primed for huge growth in the years ahead.
“Now the ball is really rolling,” said Kris Milligan.