As the pizza industry continues to grow in popularity, Toppers Pizza has committed to one motto: never settle. Whether in reference to the brand’s menu innovation or fast delivery times, the fresh ingredients or the digital presence, Toppers is constantly evolving and growing to compete with the big guys. As the Wisconsin-based better pizza brand continues to grow, one thing is clear – the strategy is working.
With 74 units and counting, Toppers Pizza has recognized an opportunity in the Northern Virginia area for continued expansion.
“The Northern Virginia is one of the best, healthiest economies to open a pizza restaurant,” said Mark Cairns, director of franchise development for Toppers Pizza. “There is much more interest in chain concepts, unlike a New York City where there is more of a local pizzeria feel. The density is great for us to tap into.”
This development effort 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 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 1,600 square feet - making it easier for franchisees to locate and sign for endcaps, inline stores, or freestanding locations.
Mike McLaughlin, an experienced multi-unit restaurant franchisee, recognized opportunity in bringing the Toppers Pizza concept to the northeast, signing on to open 22 units with Toppers Pizza throughout Northern Virginia and Maryland.
McLaughlin has been in the food business for over 25 years. He started his career with Dominos for three years and transitioned to Papa John’s for 12 years, holding a number of different roles, including District Manager and overseeing 30 stores. Before making the jump to Toppers Pizza, McLaughlin worked with Five Guys Burgers when the brand started franchising, and to this day, he continues to operate nine locations. But even while enjoying success in the better burger game, McLaughlin recognized that Toppers presented a unique opportunity that he just couldn’t find anywhere else.
“I’ve always enjoyed the pizza delivery business, and I think there’s room for a third national chain in the marketplace,” said McLaughlin. “It gives us an opportunity to go out and compete with what we think is a superior pizza product. I think Toppers is a brand that we can use here in an extremely competitive pizza market and do quite well.”
While McLaughlin is spearheading the brand’s entry into the northeast, Cairns said there’s still additional room for growth in the Northern Virginia area and throughout the state of Virginia. Now, they’re looking for experienced multi-unit operators to lead the charge.
“Mike and his team are on pace to have two locations open by the end of the year. That means we’ll have the distribution in place to easily plug new locations into,” explained Cairns. “We have room for around 20 units in the suburban areas alone. We are excited to find additional qualified multi-unit candidates like McLaughlin, and really get our growth underway in the area.”