Due to their successful growth initiatives, Toppers Pizza is looking to expand their franchise in 2017 with the hopes of opening its 80th store. Two years ago, Toppers Pizza made the decision to tap into the western markets and open franchises in South Dakota. And thanks to the amount of success they’ve already experienced in the area, Toppers Pizza has identified North Dakota as a key target market state for expansion in 2017, with plans to sign multi-unit development deals across the state.
“The economy has been incredible across North Dakota. There has been an influx of money coming into the state with the oil exploration and there is a solid college culture in the state,” said Mark Cairns, the Toppers Pizza Director of Franchise Development.
The brand specifically hopes to expand in Fargo, Grand Forks and Bismarck, with their eyes set on opening two to four stores by 2018 and more in the following years. Toppers is confident in the opportunity to grow in North Dakota due to the positive feedback and success so far of their entry in South Dakota.
Shane Quail, owner of Toppers Pizza locations in Sioux Falls and Brookings, has spearheaded the brand’s expansion throughout South Dakota. Prior to signing on as a franchisee for Toppers, Quail worked for Panera Bread, where he oversaw Panera locations across both North and South Dakota. Based on his knowledge of the markets within those two states, Quail understood the opportunity for the Toppers concept in the area. His background running successful restaurant operations gave Quail the confidence to become the first franchisee in the Dakotas.
“We believe that the pizza business is here to stay,” Quail said. “We wanted to invest in something that will be around for years to come and we liked that Toppers hits it out of the park in regards to Millennials. The brand has cool restaurant design and stands out when it comes to culture and attitude,” Quail said.
Since Quail’s first opening back in 2015, he has seen tremendous support from the community and success with his business. Aside from being a favorite among families in the community, Quail has also tapped into the college student demographic at South Dakota State University in Brookings and found a strong fan base.
“Toppers does really well in the university towns. Our corporate marketing is driven towards the 18-25 age market,” he mentioned.
From his extensive experience working with restaurants throughout North Dakota, Quail believes Grand Forks and Fargo will be especially good fits for Toppers’ franchise growth since they are both heavily populated with college students attending the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University respectively.
This development comes as Toppers Pizza comes off of 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. In the first half of 2017, Toppers Pizza will surpass 80 stores as it drives toward a national franchise footprint. 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.
“The pizza business is a strong industry, currently it’s a $40 billion market,” Cairns said. “Opening a Toppers is a relatively low investment compared to other restaurants, which is good for many who wish to go into the business or expand their portfolio.”
The investment in a Toppers Pizza franchise ranges between $291,666 and $527,152. Franchisees fees start at $30,000 for the first unit and decrease to $20,000 for the second and third units, $15,000 for the fourth and fifth, and only $10,000 for six and above. The brand also rolled out a new prototype to kick off 2017 which increases transparency and creates a more welcoming environment for guests, while enhancing the flexibility of the real estate footprint which can range from 1,200 to 1,500 square feet - making it easier for franchisees to locate and sign for endcaps, inline stores, or freestanding locations.