As a franchisee with Toppers Pizza in Wisconsin, Justin Marten was never a stranger to the 4 a.m. wakeup call. But these days, the ringing phone has been replaced by the crying of his new baby.
“Obviously it makes things more challenging,” said Marten. “It definitely takes away and replaces those 4am phone calls when there is an issue with one of my stores.”
In the midst of a huge family change, it may be a surprise to some that Marten is now focused on opening his fourth Toppers location, a new restaurant he is planning for North Racine, Wisconsin. However, for those who know Justin and his work ethic well, the dual expansion is no shock at all.
“Justin has put together a great management team that's gotten him to a point that he can continue to expand the business,” said Toppers Pizza Director of Franchise Development Mark Cairns. “He's been a consistent operator and has us in a really good place now.”
Toppers Pizza, based in Whitewater, Wisconsin, is on pace to open 16-18 new restaurants this year, and 20 openings planned for 2018, including the milestone of restaurant number 100. In addition to growth from existing and new franchisees, the brand is focusing efforts on opening corporate locations in Ohio and Indiana to spark franchise growth across the Midwest.
On top of adding to Toppers Pizza’s overall expansion efforts, the location in North Racine will also help address a problem for the Toppers brand in the area. Currently there are parts of Racine where residents are trying to order from the one existing store, but are not in the delivery zone.
“Justin’s fourth restaurant and Toppers Pizza’s second location in Racine will be huge for our fans in the area that have been asking for us,” said Cairns. “We want all Wisconsinites to be able to order Toppers.”
As far as Marten is concerned, growth from his first store in 2009 to his fourth this year took him a long time. But, he says, that time was well spent as having a stable of successful locations makes expansion easier now.
“Time is what we needed,” said Marten. “I am very interested in continuing growth here, and having four makes things a lot easier as we have mastered the system and have a great team already in place.”
But even with things in a better place to open the newest spot in North Racine, Marten says he couldn’t manage it all with his growing family if not for the help of his great team, especially Area Supervisor Jake Rudolf.
Rudolf, who has been with Toppers for 14 years and has worked with Marten for the last year and a half, is counted on to handle much of the day-to-day work in overseeing all of the restaurants. In fact, it is sometimes hard for him to specify what exactly he does.
“Solving all the problems,” joked Rudolf, when asked what his role is in helping manage the stores. “But really, my days are always different, filling in at stores, making pizzas and deliveries -- overall just helping take some of the load off Justin’s shoulders.”
Having a great team in place is extra important when opening a new store, Rudolf points out, especially in those critical first few days of operation.
“It’s all about the first few weeks and months you open, serving every customer perfectly,” said Rudolf. “If a new restaurant is great, you come back, and if it’s not you don’t. We are ready to get our top people in there, bring the Toppers spirit and passion, and let the community know we are there!”
Marten agrees that the right team is in place and that the timing is right. He believes his growing family only makes it that much more crucial that they do things right as they plan for the North Racine expansion.
Said Marten, “My supportive wife and family are always there for me, and at the end of the day having the little one makes me work that much harder at Toppers to provide for my growing family.