The team at Toppers Pizza has understood the importance of having skin in the game since the company’s founding more than 25 years ago. Corporate ownership of restaurants has helped spark and drive the company’s growth for more than two decades and the growing, Wisconsin-based better pizza franchise is utilizing that philosophy to continue their momentum in 2017.
Toppers Pizza is proactively adding corporate-owned locations as part of their strategic growth plan, with a heavy focus first in Indiana and Ohio.
In Indiana, the company recently signed to open two new locations by the end of 2017, one in Fishers and the other in Greenwood. In Ohio, the company recently purchased two franchise-owned locations in Cincinnati and plan to open three additional corporate-owned locations in the next year.
“It’s a ‘side by side’ strategy where we are methodically looking to get a foothold in these key markets with corporate-owned locations in order to make any new franchisee’s entry into the market stronger,” said Mark Cairns, Director of Franchise Development for Toppers Pizza. “We are still actively looking for qualified franchisees to join us in our expansion into Ohio and Indiana, and those that join us now will have the benefit of growing alongside our corporate stores.”
Ohio and Indiana are a demographic and cultural match for the growing concept. Both states also have strong colleges and universities, where the brand has thrived over the years.
“Our stores in college markets have performed extremely well and the vibrant menu and attitude of Toppers really resonates with college students,” said David Biederman, Chief Development Officer for Toppers Pizza. “We believe there are prospective franchisees in those areas that could help bring Toppers to town, but we are also going to take advantage of strong real estate in those states where we think the company can find success.”
The investment in a Toppers Pizza franchise ranges between $291,666 and $527,152. Franchise 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 1,300 to 1,700 square feet--making it easier for franchisees to locate and sign for endcaps, inline stores, or freestanding locations.
In Ohio, Toppers Pizza has already established a strong presence in Cincinnati where both college students and families have become fans of the irreverent pizza brand. The corporate team is planning to add to the two existing stores they have taken over near the University of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky University. As the company aims to attract more qualified franchisees in the area, they see tremendous opportunity in duplicating the success they’ve had with Bearcats at their crosstown rival, Xavier University, in the Norwood area of the city. Additionally, the company is focused on real estate options in Hyde Park, Western Hills, and downtown areas of the city.
The plan calls to open three corporate-owned stores in Cincinnati by the end of 2018. From there, the company will begin eyeing investment in corporate-owned locations in other major Ohio markets like Dayton, Akron, Columbus and Cleveland. Though, they are actively searching for franchise partners to beat them to those markets.
Toppers Pizza has a goal of continuing to enter new markets and raise its national profile, ultimately reaching 200 units by 2022. 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.
In Indiana, the team hopes the opening of the locations in Fishers and Greenwood will help spark interest from franchise prospects in cities like Lafayette, the home of Purdue University. The company also sees opportunity in cities like Indianapolis, Bloomington, South Bend, Lafayette, and Evansville. Overall, the company thinks that between corporate-owned and franchisee-owned locations, they could open as many as 30 Toppers Pizza restaurants in the coming years within Indiana.
“We are actively looking at all areas of Ohio and Indiana and are working with real estate brokers to find the best locations to help Toppers thrive there,” said Cairns. “We are looking at a variety of options and want to create the awareness so that franchisees who want to invest in bringing Toppers to their city can have a leg-up on the competition."