Next to its home state of Wisconsin, Toppers Pizza has enjoyed the second highest level of expansion in Minnesota, with nearly 20 locations dotted across the state. But while Wisconsin is completely sold out for franchise growth, there is still a window of opportunity in Minnesota – but with more and more franchisees signing on to join the brand, that window is rapidly closing.
In 2017, Toppers is focused on a mix of smart expansion by tapping into its growing base of existing franchisees, while also welcoming qualified franchisees to open new locations in The Gopher State. In total, Mark Cairns, the director of franchise development for Toppers Pizza, believes there’s room for 10 additional units. To date, there are 17 stores currently open, with two more in the development stages.
“There is an incredible system already in place throughout Minnesota. Right now, opportunity still exists mainly in the north and northeast suburbs of Minneapolis. However, interest is high and we’re looking for a few final franchisees to complete the state,” said Mark Cairns, Director of Franchise Development for Toppers Pizza.
This development push 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.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. Average unit net sales surpass $1-million and Toppers boasts an EBITDA of $166,205, with average labor costs landing at 20.5% and average cost of goods sold is 27.6%.
At the heart of the brand’s success in Minnesota is Toppers’ core values, which have resonated in every market the brand touches. This starts with its franchisees, who embody those core values every day. The father-son franchisee team of Keith and Myron Allen, who opened their first location in Rochester in the fall of 2012, are no exception, and since then, they’ve added two additional locations. To them, and to the type of franchise prospects the brand is committed to growing with, having a sense of pride in improving the community is vital to the brand’s continued success at the local level.
“When we first started, my dad reminded me that we weren't just in business for ourselves,” Keith Allen said. “One of the benefits of business ownership is that we are bringing all these young kids on board as team members and we’re having a positive impact on their lives. If we didn’t approach it that way—and work to be a good influence on them—then we are failing them. We have developed relationships with so many young adults that I now look at like siblings. It is incredibly rewarding to feel you’ve made a positive change in someone’s life. It’s not just about making profit—you’re also teaching these team members lessons that they'll take and apply for the rest of their lives.”
Nearly five years after the Allens brought Toppers to Minnesota, they’ve since paved the way for other franchisees to follow in their footsteps. Another pair of entrepreneurs taking advantage of the strong brand awareness in the state are Bryan and Erin Atwood. The couple signed a deal in the first quarter of 2017 to open a new location in Blaine, with an eye toward continued growth down the line. They hope to open their Blaine Toppers Pizza before the end of the year.
“As we learned more about what sets Toppers apart from other brands, we realized that this could be something really fun and exciting,” Bryan Atwood said. “We've seen the presence that other stores have within their communities, and we like the idea of being ingrained in the community. Every time we talk with the Toppers team, we get incredibly excited about what they are doing and the idea that we could be a part of it. Unlike other franchise concepts that only reach out when they want to collect more fees, Toppers is truly invested in their franchisees and provide many tools to help a store be successful.”
Bryan also understands the value of a system—the 28-year-old served four years of active duty in the Army after attending Minnesota State University-Mankato. He and Erin first got a taste of Toppers during their time at MSU, as the brand had already been a fixture across the state with successful operations by other driven franchisees. Coming from a line of entrepreneurs that stretches back to his great grandfather who opened a land company back in the 1930s, Bryan also understands the importance of a business with a strong focus on community and the potential for growth.
“There is a lot of opportunity for growth and expansion in nearby cities. Although we hope to open up multiple stores, we want ones nearby that we can be personally involved in—both on the operations side and the community side,” Bryan said.