When a brand like Toppers Pizza gets its franchise system together, it’s an event truly unlike anything in franchising. With franchisees yelling “Never Settle!” in unison, cowbells ringing to celebrate wins, and the entire system cheering loudly during the annual Skin Sprints competition, the Toppers Pizza annual convention is a spirited affair.
More than 250 franchisees, team members, vendors and corporate staff gathered for the 15th annual Toppers Pizza convention at the Hilton Monona Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin from June 12th to 14th. Founder and President Scott Gittrich kicked off the festivities laying out what this year’s convention theme – People, Pizza, Profits – means to him for the year ahead. The focus on people is one that Toppers has embraced from the start, and will always be a key driver of the brand’s growth.
“When I started this business, we were the underdogs. We may not be the underdog anymore, but we have to continue to fight, day by day, asking for business,” Gittrich said. “Part of our DNA is to set lofty goals and get after them. And the people are going to determine whether we meet our goals or not."
To recognize the people in the system that help to make this brand great, Toppers Pizza gave out the following awards:
- 2017 President’s Award: Clayton Hartman and Todd Geatches, Rocky Top Management, Inc.
- Franchisee of the Year: Andy & Caro’s Inc.
- Hall of Fame: Beth Larson, Toppers HQ
- Manager of the Year: Tyler Schimmel, Eau Claire East, Andy & Caro’s Inc.
- Rookie Manager of the Year: Derek Flomm, Rochester, 3Sixty Companies, LLC
- Caro Johnson Spirit Award: Tashina (Tish) Howard, Smooth Money, LLC
- Attitude in Action Sales Building Awards:
- Individual: Nate Walter – Andy & Caro’s Inc.
- Company – Andy & Caro’s Inc.
- Store – Madison East, Pizza People Inc.
- Hometown Hero – Jeff Beck – Lakeville, MN – JWB Enterprises, LLC
The 12th annual Skin Sprints competition, during which regional finalists compete to toss, stretch, and sauce six pizzas, took place on Tuesday, June 13. Kelly Collins, general manager of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, taking home the Golden Spoodle award with a winning time of 1:44:32. Last year’s champion Nick Kotecki of Eau Claire came in at 1:52:06 and Kasia Ksobiech of Waukesha taking third place with a time of 1:57:01.
In addition to its people, another focus for the brand is, of course, the pizza. But to Gittrich, making pizza a priority isn’t just about the product.
"Pizza. I love that word. I love that food. It's the greatest food of all time. But to me, pizza encompasses more than just the food. It’s about executing our core values in each of our stores every single day," he said.
One way the brand is living its core values is through innovation.
“Innovation has driven our past and gotten us to where we are today. And it will be the key to drive our future,” said Scott Iversen, vice president of marketing for Toppers Pizza. “We’re committed to innovation in all facets of the business, focusing on menu, store design and technology.”
After last summer’s successful launch of Straight Up Pricing, an option that allows pizza fanatics to order unlimited toppings for one set price, Toppers Pizza plans to continue its focus on toppings over the next year, with plans in the works to add even more options to top a pizza as well as new limited time offerings, house pizzas, wing flavors and more. In the next 18 months, the brand will also launch new uniforms that cost less than 50 percent of the current uniform price.
Finally, Gittrich honed in on profits, highlighting how advancements in store design and technology will improve unit-level economics.
“I want to help our franchisees build great businesses. With the tools, resources and data that we have at our fingertips, our system should be able to double profits within six months,” Gittrich said. “We had $35 million in online orders in 2017, which is more than our total sales in 2012. I’m confident we can hit our goal of $150 million in sales and 200 stores in 2022.”
With a store redesign featuring a show kitchen and improved efficiencies, a next gen, built-from-scratch online ordering system and applications, a mobile-first focus in every facet of the business and a new training and operations system, Toppers Pizza is primed to Gittrich’s goal head-on.