The way Bryan Atwood remembers things, his college experience at Minnesota State University-Mankato was synonymous with Toppers Pizza.
“We were eating it all the time. You would not go to a party in college without there being Toppers,” said Atwood, who at the young age of 28 will be opening his first franchise in Blaine, Minnesota later this year. “And on top of that, my first apartment was right outside of the Toppers on campus, so I really couldn’t escape it.”
Following his college days, Atwood went into the Army for four years of active duty, but the whole time he always knew he wanted to be in franchising. However, despite his early indoctrination into all things Toppers, it wasn’t a slam dunk that he would join the growing pizza concept.
“We were looking at tons of franchises, but not all of them were a good fit,” said Atwood. “But once we reached out to Toppers it was a night and day difference from the other companies we researched.”
Most importantly, Atwood says the passion he saw in members of the corporate team and at franchise locations he visited sparked memories of the same thing he experienced years back in Mankato.
“The best example of that passion was from an early interview I went to with another franchisee,” said Atwood. “I didn’t know what he looked like, and all of a sudden this guy rushed out already knowing who I was and telling me how great it was to be there. It wasn’t the franchisee - it was just an assistant manager at the location! I thought, ‘that is incredible brand loyalty and love.’”
According to Toppers Pizza Director of Franchise Development Mark Cairns, Bryan and Erin have exactly the right attitude and experience to similarly flourish as Toppers franchisees.
“Without question, having someone who has that experience with and love of the Toppers brand is really helpful in building their business,” said Cairns. “They know who we are. Both of them have been in business before, so they have that discipline already in place, that hard work ethic and integrity. They are really going to give all they have to the community in Blaine.”
Bryan and Erin officially signed with Toppers in February 2017. The young entrepreneurs already have their site selected in Blaine and hope to open in December of this year or in early 2018. This comes while Toppers Pizza has established a firm presence in the state of Minnesota, with 17 locations already in operation.
The Blaine location is one of the 16-18 planned openings this year for Whitewater, Wisconsin based Toppers Pizza. With 20 openings on the horizon in 2018, including the milestone of restaurant number 100, the brand continues to put pressure on the big national pizza chains. In the second half of 2017, Toppers is focusing efforts on opening corporate locations in Ohio and Indiana to spark franchise growth across the Midwest.
And in Minnesota, as the Atwoods look forward to their December opening, Bryan is already starting to think about how to continue the Toppers Pizza tradition of love and passion he first experienced as a fan of the brand in college.
“Toppers has a lot of good advertising tools to bring in applications and help us find the perfect staff,” said Atwood. “And we want to find people who will have a blast and love it as much as we do.”
When Erin thinks back on her family’s history with the brand, she knows that they made the right choice for their future.
"Growing up it was a family tradition to always have pizza night on Fridays and in college that tradition continued with friends, parties, and Toppers,” said Erin Atwood. “We are so excited to have the opportunity to bring the Toppers culture to Blaine.”