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Young Ones to Watch: Colleen Glendinning, Director of Advertising and Media at Toppers Pizza

Glendinning spoke with 1851 Franchise to discuss how she entered the franchise industry, what advice she has for up-and-coming business owners and more.

Prior to becoming both the director of advertising and media and a franchise owner with Toppers Pizza*, Colleen Glendinning built her career in the restaurant industry. Since signing on with the brand she has helped it grow by opening four of her own locations throughout Minnesota to share the brand’s unique, customer-focused pizza offerings with Midwesterners.

1851 Franchise spoke with Glendinning as part of our Young Ones to Watch issue in order to learn more about his story.

1851 Franchise: How did you get into franchising?

Colleen Glendinning: I’ve been in the food industry for over 15 years. After graduating from college I was part of the marketing department at Qdoba. I spent nine years on the corporate team at Noodles & Co. in advertising media before coming to Toppers as the director of advertising and media. Later, Toppers approached both my husband and I about becoming franchisees. Both of our experiences in the restaurant industry have positioned us for success from both the corporate and franchisee sides.

1851: What do you love about the industry? 

Glendinning: The restaurant industry in general is fun and fast-paced, and the pizza industry especially is great. Who doesn’t love pizza? It's a celebration food and family food — pizza is a part of making memories. I look at that as a big responsibility to make all those moments extra special. 

Franchising is really fun because if you have a passion for the industry in general, you can roll up your sleeves and get to know the franchise. You’re operating all the departments. It’s really fun to have that control and be the leader of your own destiny because it’s your business. You often hear people say, “If I owned this restaurant I might do it this way.” Being a franchisee really puts you in control with all of those things you “might'' want to do. It's a great industry to be in if you like fast-paced and ever-changing environments. Customer expectations keep you on your toes and extraordinarily engaged. 

1851: What makes someone a good fit for the franchise industry? Are there traits that are shared by the most successful franchise professionals you know?

Glendinning: People who like to roll up their sleeves and lean in and learn are the best fit for the industry, because it's ever-changing. They should be committed to excellence and put the customer and their teams first — servant leadership. I won't ask anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. So much of the success relies on your team members, they’re the ones bringing your brand to life for the customers and you have to be able and open to supporting them every step of the way.

1851: How do you feel about the industry's response to the coronavirus crisis so far? Are there challenges or opportunities that the industry still needs to address?

Glendinning: During the pandemic Toppers was positioned to excel because of our already established delivery service, whereas other restaurants had to get up to speed. We were able to enhance our other offerings quickly — curbside pick-up and online tipping all implemented in a matter of weeks. Toppers was nimble and leaned into changes. The team had to be flexible and open to learning more about our tech capabilities. We trained our team to do everything they needed to do well. I would say throughout the industry you see everyone taking precautions to keep teams and customers safe because we’re the ones providing an essential service to our communities. Everyone’s doing the best they can to work in an ever-changing environment. Convenience was king prior to the pandemic, and that’s been accelerated. 

A major challenge comes from the consumer’s perception of reality. What I mean by that is, there are things that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that aren’t always best suited for the restaurant industry — like gloves. It’s not recommended that people wear gloves. It’s frequent handwashing that needs to be done and gloves are giving off this false sense of security. There is so much information and the info changes daily as to what’s recommended. I think that’s the ongoing challenge, helping ensure consumers that we are operating in a safe environment. 

1851: What advice do you have for other young up-and-comers in the space?

Glendinning: Have a high degree of expertise to put people in place that you think will work to do your brand justice, and be patient and flexible and embrace change. Also, make sure the executive level values align with yours — we don’t talk about that enough. The franchisees/franchisor relationship is essential. And finally, know the communities you serve and what makes them tick. Truly care about your team and your customers, they’re the ones taking care of your brand. 

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.