Ask any Wisconsinite about Toppers Pizza, and you are sure to get a strong reaction. That’s what comes from being an established presence in your home region- so established in fact that Toppers Pizza has essentially sold out of territory in Wisconsin and other parts of the Midwest. Thus, the next great challenge for the Whitewater-based pizza brand was to grow and increase awareness throughout the rest of a pizza-hungry nation.
And despite the challenges that come with expanding into uncharted territory, Toppers Pizza has so far proven its potential in all parts of the country with some incredible recent results.
“It's always challenging to grow awareness and teach the brand to a whole new group that doesn’t know anything about you yet,” said Toppers Pizza Director of National Marketing & Menu Innovation Mac Malchow. “But seeing markets like Charlotte, Indianapolis, and others continue to expand and thrive is a testament to the brand.”
Thriving would seem to be an apt word to describe the Toppers brand of late, as the company is on pace to finish 2017 with 16 new restaurants. Growth won’t stop there, however, as the Toppers team is looking at continuing the momentum in 2018 with a long-term goal of 200 locations by 2020.
Among those lofty expansion plans is a focus on the Northern Virginia area, a new territory with huge growth potential that is being built out by pizza industry veteran Mike McLaughlin and his team.
“I know these markets extremely well, as I used to run the Northern Virginia region with Papa John’s,” said McLaughlin. “I’ve always enjoyed the pizza business and I think there’s room for a third national chain in the marketplace. It gives us an opportunity to go up and compete with what we think is a great product.”
That a pizza professional like McLaughlin has already signed on to open 22 units with Toppers throughout Northern Virginia is a telling sign for the potential of the brand outside the Midwest. And according to McLaughlin, this is just the beginning of the success they expect to see in the area.
“Our next location is projected to open in January in Alexandria, and we are already thinking ahead to more expansion,” said McLaughlin. “Since Northern Virginia is pretty well covered, we want to also develop the D.C. area and into Baltimore in the future.”
With experienced franchisees like the Northern Virginia team on board and more opportunities available throughout the United States, Toppers should only continue to find success and growth outside of its Midwest base. And while it is encouraging to see the great early returns in some new locations, Malchow points out that an intelligent and careful approach is what has worked to this point and will continue to be key moving forward.
"It's nice to see that some of these markets outside of our core upper Midwest footprint are growing and developing,” said Malchow. “It's one thing to take a shotgun approach, but we've tried to be smart and strategic about how we've expanded out of the upper Midwest, and that will continue to be our strategy.”