Let’s face it: The restaurant industry has got some serious competition from the array of businesses now making dining at home an increasingly popular option for consumers. And that holds doubly true in the pizza restaurant business, where take-out and delivery have always played a big role.
But most brands have made their dine-in businesses integral to their success, and since even the most committed hermits crawl out from their caves for a dinner out once in a while, savvy restaurateurs know that the experience their brands provide for those dining in may be more critical in today’s ultra-competitive pizza business than ever before.
For one brand that has launched a anew store prototype, Toppers Pizza, the subject is top of mind. The chain has spent the past year immersed in the redesign process, which has resulted in a more open kitchen design, dubbed the Toppers Show Kitchen.
“Much of our design was driven from how our customers have been using our restaurants and the direction the business is heading,” Toppers Chief Development Officer David Biederman told PizzaMarketplace in an interview following the opening of the first store sporting the new look in Milwaukee. “We are seeing more and more people coming in and picking up pizza in-store. The online ordering is gaining popularity. We are changing from just a pizza factory. Now, our customers are coming in and seeing us. They are seeing our brand and the quality of the product that we make. We wanted to allow our customers to actually see what goes into the pizza that they are excited to eat. That’s where the inspiration of the Show Kitchen stemmed from.”
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Toppers Pizza has launched a new store prototype that features an open kitchen, allowing customers to get an up-close look at their orders as the restaurant’s team members create their pies.
NEW • Scott Gittrich, founder of Toppers Pizza, quibbles a bit when asked his strategy for building his brand. He believes it’s about “ruthlessly guarding and building the concept and unit profitability. I’m not sure that’s a strategy as much as it is blocking and tackling.” Gittrich started Toppers 25 years ago with one restaurant, and in the last three years, has grown to more than 73 units and $60 million in systemwide sales. An in-your-face marketing campaign is one differentiator. “Our brand voice is the cocky young person, kind of dismiss the big guys and talk smack,” he says. But the “biggest one by far” is Toppers’ online ordering capabilities for customers, in which the brand has invested heavily. Forty-two percent of orders come in online. “Our customers love the site and use it in a whole bunch of unique ways,” he says. But Gittrich is not stopping there. “We look out 10 to 15 years and say you know, there’s going to be self-driving cars, there’s going to be automation in kitchens where robots are making pizzas, customers are going to be ordering in kiosks in restaurants. Those kinds of things are not a question of if, they’re a question of when and who’s going to adopt those things,” he says. “It’s our job to look at those things.”
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For much of his 32-year career in foodservice, Toppers Pizza franchisee Todd Geatches has been around pizza.
Starting as an Oliver’s Pizza franchisee just out of high school, Geatches later went to work as a district manager for Papa John’s as the brand grew from about 400 restaurants to more than 2,500. Later, Geatches founded Rocky Top Management Group, which now has nine Taco John’s locations in the greater Denver area.
His success with Taco John’s led Geatches back into the pizza arena, and specifically Toppers Pizza, whose quality product and passionate founder reignited his love for the category. Rocky Top has plans to open 13 Toppers locations over the next three years in Colorado and Wyoming, with more than a dozen stores planned through the end of 2022.
Geatches shares the advice he’s learned throughout his career—including what’s behind the undying appeal of pizza.
Read more in the December issue of QSR
What once was considered out of the ordinary has now become commonplace. Today’s consumers expect to have the opportunity to customize their restaurant orders — ranging from the substitution of one ingredient for another to the reimagining of a complete entrée. As a result, operators are making it easier for consumers to participate in the creation of something original.
The Toppers Pizza Inc. franchise is hiring and is planning to bring a swath of employees under its belt by year-end.
The fast-growing Whitewater-based pizza restaurant chain recently said it’s going to employ an additional 1,500 workers across its entire franchise system before 2017 begins. The company said it’s mainly focusing its hiring efforts in the fast-growing Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Chicago markets.
Toppers currently boasts 80 stores up and running in 14 states and has its eye on robust growth for the long term. In 2016, the restaurant chain signed three multi-unit development deals that will add 41 new Toppers locations. In the last three years, the number of franchises has doubled.
Toppers Pizza was founded by Scott Gittrich in 1991.
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What’s happening with America’s largest pizza companies? Who added stores in 2016? Who pushed their sales to record highs? Who dropped off a bit?
Last month, Pizza Today published their list of the nation’s 100 most successful independent operations. Now, they present to you our yearly listing of America’s 100 largest pizza chains. Check out who’s winning big. And check out how Toppers Pizza ranks!
Link to full rankings: http://www.pizzatoday.com/departments/pizza-todays-2016-top-100-pizza-companies/
Why Toppers, Why Now
So you think you have what it takes to succeed in the restaurant industry? Restaurateurs are the real deal. Long days, hundreds of transactions, and constant coaching make up the daily routine of a great operator. When it comes to the pizza business though, there’s no better feeling than flawlessly executing an incredible rush (trust us, we know from experience). At Toppers Pizza, this is what we’re all about. We respect pizza and give Customers exactly what they want hot, fresh, incredibly tasty products delivered extremely fast and built whatever way they choose.
Toppers Pizza is one of the fastest growing pizza chains in the United States. We are known in the pizza business as one of the leaders in the exploding better pizza category. We currently have over 75 locations in multiple states throughout the upper Midwest and beyond.
At Toppers, customers can choose between our unique specialty pizzas or create their own with more than a million combinations of fresh, high quality toppings. Toppers fanatics also know us for our signature line of flavored Topperstix and baked buffalo wings.
Customers either order in the restaurant and see their food prepared fresh right in front of them and baked in about 360 seconds, or they order online with any device and get their hot food delivered extremely fast to their home, office or practically anywhere in about 25 minutes!
Toppers has won numerous accolades and recognitions in the restaurant and franchising industry. We have an incredible leadership team of restaurant franchising veterans. We target experienced restaurant operators to bring into our franchise system. If you think you have what it takes to succeed in the competitive restaurant industry, we encourage you to fill out our franchise info form found on the home page of this website.
Click here to begin your journey now.
Toppers Pizza is expanding again in Sioux Falls.
The pizza chain known for its wide assortment of toppings plans to open a third location on the west side.
Faced with diminished job prospects, millennials are increasingly partnering with their parents in the franchising world.