2016 has been a major year for Toppers Pizza. The pizza chain has successfully held its own against other U.S. pizza companies for the past 25 years. Now, Toppers is seeing nation-wide growth with multi-unit developments.
The reasons behind the pizza chain's continued growth are simple: Toppers offers a quality product that catches on like wildfire no matter where the brand goes, and are leveraging franchisees who want to own multiple units to jump start growth. It’s not a hard sell, given that Toppers offers a proven busines model for franchisees all over the U.S.
“We have a great system with great returns for franchisees,” says Toppers Franchise Operations Director Mark Watt. “We’re a small but strong brand, and we’ve been able to expand our concept this year by signing game-changer multi-unit developments. With bigger pizza brands, there’s not a lot of opportunity for growth. Since we compete well against the big guys, there are still lots of places, like markets already saturated with bigger brands, where there’s all this untapped potential for Toppers franchisees.”
Toppers has played a tremendous role in franchisee Denise Downing’s life for the past 20 years. She started out by delivering pizzas to earn some extra cash during college before moving up to a managerial position. She then went on to work in the marketing department for corporate.
Not only did Downing find her career with Toppers, but she also met her husband through the pizza brand, as he was a fellow delivery driver-turned-manager.
Committed to sticking with the brand, the couple considered how they could find new challenges with Toppers to help them move forward in their careers. They found their perfect opportunity by becoming franchisees. Their first store opened in 2001, and 15 years later, they now own four successful locations with 120 Team Members in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“Back then, [founder and President] Scott Gittrich was just starting to franchise the company, so it was a little intimidating,” says Downing. “But we felt like we had the experience we needed to run the store, so it was also really exciting. The training, marketing and support systems Toppers puts in place are implemented by pizza people. The corporate team all comes from the industry. And that’s really one of the biggest benefits for franchisees, that we have the guidance of those who understand how to do things efficiently.”
Downing has won Toppers Franchisee of the Year three times, as well as earned a spot in the Toppers Hall of Fame.
Father and son duo Jon S. Crowe and Jon P. Crowe, who’ve been with Toppers for six years, also successfully run multiple locations.
“I spent 20 plus years working in the corporate world, but I always had a passion for pizza. I was making pizzas at home all the time,“ says Jon S. “So when I was looking to do something different with my career, people kept suggesting I open a pizza restaurant.”
After researching different pizza franchise opportunities, Jon S. stumbled upon Toppers and was taken by the organization’s commitment to customers and product quality.
Jon P., who had recently graduated from college, was trying to decide which direction to take his career when his father brought up Toppers to him. The duo went to Discovery Day in Wisconsin and were convinced franchising with the pizza brand was a great opportunity. The Crowes now own three locations and manage about 75 Team Members.
The father and son pair attribute a great deal of their success to marketing efforts, which Jon S.’s wife helps implement. Once a week, they visit other local businesses to make connections, offering half off of any menu item for the whole week. They also work with local hotels to provide discounts for front desk employees when recommending Toppers to guests.
“All of these ideas generated from a pool of ideas that Toppers corporate has available,” says Jon S. “They’re a great resource.”
The Crowes feel strongly about prospective franchisees finding the perfect fit for them, just as they were able to do.
“Get to know the people because they’re the ones who will be crucial to your success,” says Jon S. “The folks you deal with are the ones who will make or break you. The people at Toppers live with integrity and we value our work with them.”