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Toppers Pizza’s Delivery Leads in the Fast Casual Pizza Space
As other brands turn to third-party delivery, Toppers enjoys great success by keeping delivery in house

As casual dining, fast casual and even quick service brands turn to third-party delivery providers like GrubHub and Seamless to bring their food to the masses, Toppers Pizza continues its 26 year run as the leader in delivery. With its out-the-door average time of 18 minutes and its commitment to running to the door to serve its products as hot and fresh as possible, Toppers Pizza has mastered the art of delivery.

At the brand’s annual conference in June in Madison, Wisconsin, Toppers Pizza vice president of marketing Scott Iversen discussed third-party delivery providers and why they weren’t a fit for the brand in the long term. Toppers tested out GrubHub as an option for franchisees to reach a greater audience, but were saddled with 20 to 30 percent more in fees per delivery. Plus, when compared to orders through GrubHub, Toppers.com had higher order frequency.

“The vast majority of our customers weren’t finding us by searching on Grubhub or other third-party providers,” said Iversen. “They’re not scrolling through endless cuisine options and landing on us. Our customers know what they want, and they head directly to Toppers.com to place their orders. We’ve built such a loyal fan base that using third-party providers just doesn’t make sense for us.”

Toppers has built that loyal fan base with its fresh pizzas, Topperstix and baked Buffalo wings that are delivered hot and extremely fast. Pizzas are baked in just 360 seconds with more than a million combinations of fresh, premium toppings. Toppers has doubled in size over the last three years and plans to open its 80th location this year and its 200th location by 2022. Never one to settle, Toppers is committed to finding ways to maximize profitability and unit-level economics for its franchisees.

“To determine the best route for delivery, we did the test with GrubHub and determined that it is more profitable to keep delivery in-house,” said Iversen. “Plus, we can access, analyze and protect our customer data, which we can’t do with third-party services. We are in the process of building a best-in-class POS system that will help us to learn our customers’ ordering behavior and market to them accordingly. Keeping our delivery – and our data – in house will make it much easier to do that.”

Toppers currently tracks frequency of orders and markets to customers accordingly. With the new POS system, Toppers will be able to more closely profile each customer’s preferences to provide them a fully customized ordering experience. Orders from Toppers.com have 20 percent higher check averages compared to phone or in-person orders, and Toppers anticipates the new POS system will continue to make online ordering the best option for both the customer and the franchisee. 

Innovation at Toppers doesn’t stop at online ordering, though. Iversen notes that over the last five to seven years, QSR pizza businesses have seen their pickup and carryout orders increase. 

“Ironically, as the pizza industry is shifting away from delivery, other casual dining and dine-in concepts are moving toward delivery.” said Iversen. “Five years ago, 73 percent of our business was done through delivery. Today, delivery makes up 55 percent of sales. We anticipate this shift to continue and have made adjustments to both our online ordering system and our store design to maximize efficiencies and customer experience. As other brands are scrambling to find the best third party delivery option, Toppers is leading the pack.”

While some brands anticipate that pizza will soon be delivered by robot, Toppers is and always will be committed to its people. The brand’s delivery drivers are trained to run from the car to the door to ensure that the order is served as fast and hot as possible. 

“We’re different than other pizza brands in many ways -- our top-notch delivery is just one of our key differentiators,” said Scott Gittrich, founder and president of Toppers Pizza. “We make great food and we hire great people to deliver it, literally running to the door to make sure our fanatics enjoy our pizza as it’s meant to be. This is part of our DNA -- and part of the reason why Toppers continues to get attention from customers and new franchise owners.” 

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