Wisconsin Pizza Chain Serves Mac & Cheese Pies Topped With Success

April 6, 2016 • In The News

In this Salute to American Success, we’re taking a look at Toppers Pizza. The eatery, primarily a carry out and delivery concept chain based in Wisconsin, features common pizza toppings as well as ones ranging from macaroni and cheese to tater tots, as well as the customer favorite Topperstix’their version of cheese bread. In the early 1990s, founder Scott Gittrich, who was working at Domino’s Pizza at the time, decided he wanted to open up his own pizza shop. That idea eventually became Toppers Pizza.
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Branching Out

March 31, 2016 • In The News

Pointers and pitfalls when opening a second location

Few restaurants last more than a few years, but for those that turn a healthy profit, expansion is a sensible next step. Opening a second location is easier said than done, though.

Between hidden costs, new crews and slow openings, unforeseen problems can quickly put a damper on your long-term plans.

Fortunately, there are plenty of steps you can take to successfully transition to multiple locations. For many, these steps require a change in mindset ‘ from a chef, foodie or pizza enthusiast to an entrepreneur. A passion for pizza may fuel the rise of your first location, but you’ll need solid business skills and a well-developed plan to keep multiple shops afloat.

Location, Location, Location

The basics of picking your plot are simple enough: high visibility, proximity to the competition and the right demographic for your brand and price point. Do these principles differ when picking a second spot? No, and if you pick a great location you can even get away with messier systems, says Brewer Stouffer, founder of Roman Candle Pizza. Smooth operations are ideal, but great foot traffic can make up for shaky operating procedures when you open up.

Still, there are a couple considerations specific to a second shop. First, don’t open up too close or too far from your first location. It should be fairly close, so you can run around and perform triages if needed, says Marc Cosentino, founder of Goodfella’s Brick Oven Pizza. At the same time, Stouffer notes that, With a pizzeria, you can’t just open up a block over. You have to go further away to make an identical restaurant make sense.

Next, it’s best to establish the second shop in the same type of area as the first, be it a strip mall, urban sprawl, suburb or college campus. You’re not going to take the friendly neighborhood mom-and-pop store and put it in a mall, says Cosentino. The fewer new variables the better, and the types of customers who made your first shop successful will most likely patronize your second.

Logistics Lessons

Location is just one of several considerations you’ll need to make as you open a second shop. From payroll to ordering to customer complaints and more, every concern requires scalable solutions. You’ve got to build systems and come up with solutions to problems just one time, says Stouffer. You won’t have time for one-off fixes, and your managers need to know how to patch up problems themselves.

For many restaurateurs, cash flow management is the greatest logistical hurdle. With expansion, you have to frontload your costs, say Casey and Sam Askar, owners of Askar Brands. That includes training all the staff, and that payroll comes from the proceeds of the first location. Even if you’re turning a great profit at your first store, you can’t assume it will be enough to fully fund a second. You’ve got to run the numbers.

In the long term, though, you also need to factor in greater revenues and lower costs. If you have a $1 million restaurant, and you open another one across town, you should expect to have two restaurants earning $1.1 million due to greater awareness, says Scott Gittrich, founder and president of Toppers Pizza. Economies of scale will also allow for lower wholesale costs as you expand. Overall, you’ll need to ensure a reliable cash flow on the front end to reap the advantages of expansion later on.

Key Personnel

You may have your funds, properties and operating procedures planned out ‘ but how should you allocate labor? I would take my guys who are well-seasoned and well-trained and use them for the opening of the new store, says Cosentino. Have those people train the new hires. The reliable crew that’s helped build your business will be indispensable during your expansion.

As important as your crew is, however, they can only run your shops if you adopt the right role. If you’re the kind of person who’s always putting out fires, it might be a better decision to expand your hours or add delivery or takeout, says Stouffer. Running a multi-store business requires delegation, top-down thinking and a big picture focus. If those aren’t your strengths, you’ll need to develop them or partner with someone whose skills complement your own.

Getting the Word Out

The U.S. pizza market is more or less flat, and you’ll have to fight for market share early on at your new location. You have to create awareness beforehand, says Askar. You have to do a great job of communicating your story from one community to the next. Your employees, current customers and prospects should be able to tell your story and describe your products before the new store’s grand opening.

To accomplish that goal, a combination of social media, flyers, newspaper ads and radio spots will do the trick, and the industry average for ad spend is between two and five percent of gross sales. That may seem like a lot, but you absolutely have to invest in marketing if you want to grow your sales, says Stouffer.

The method is more important than the medium, however. Before you fret over Facebook ads, Twitter posts and other minute marketing details, you need to identify what ‘ and who ‘ made your first shop successful. You’ve got a certain number of critical customers who already love what you do, says Gittrich. Ultimately, the success of your second shop will be a matter of communicating and replicating the product quality and customer appeal of your first.

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Toppers Pizza Provides Meals to Families Facing Hunger with System-wide One-Day Event

February 23, 2016 • In The News

Whitewater, WI (Restaurant News Release) When Toppers Pizza was founded nearly 30 years ago, it was built on a foundation of two basic values: A strong love of pizza and a strong love of people. In 2011, the rapidly growing better pizza franchise took those principles to heart, announcing a partnership with Feeding America , the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief charity. Now, the brand is taking it a step further and unveiling a system-wide, one-day Hunger-Relief Event with an impact that’s twofold’you can enjoy your pizza, and help people in need, too.
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Toppers Pizza Crowdsources Newest Menu Item from Loyal Fanatics

January 15, 2016 • In The News

Whitewater, WI (RestaurantNews.com) When Scott Gittrich opened the first Toppers Pizza in Whitewater, Wisconsin 25 years ago, he did so with one goal in mind’to change the landscape of the competitive pizza industry, one delicious box full of Topperstix at a time. Since then, Toppers has established an audacious reputation as the forward-thinking pizza pioneers who never stop innovating. That’s why, on January 18, Toppers will unveil the newest addition to its legendary Topperstix family’and it’s cheesier than ever before: The 3-Cheese Garlicstix.

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Toppers Pizza expanding into north Raleigh

January 7, 2016 • Company Growth, In The News

The owner of the Triangle’s lone Toppers Pizza restaurant in Chapel Hill has formed a new partnership to expand the brand into north Raleigh later this year.

Wayne Byers, who opened the Toppers Pizza in Chapel Hill in 2014, says he and his new partners are actively looking for at least three new locations between the Glenwood Avenue and Capital Boulevard corridors in north Raleigh over the next three years. The new partnership includes Cary businessman Sridhar Koneru as the managing investing partner.
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Toppers opening Saturday, picks second site

December 10, 2015 • Company Growth, In The News

Toppers Pizza opens Saturday, and the chain already has leased a second location.

The first restaurant, which is in a strip mall on Minnesota Avenue north of 18th Street, will open at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The first 50 people in line will receive a free menu item weekly for a year, and some customers will win the same offer through scratch cards distributed opening day.
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Tech plays bigger role in real estate tactics

December 3, 2015 • In The News

Most franchisors agree location intelligence tools are an important part of site selection today, but they haven’t entirely replaced the old-school practices of site visits and personal experience. Some location intelligence systems estimate a 10 to 12 percent margin of error on either side in terms of under-performing or out-performing expectations. So, it is still important to apply both high-tech and low-tech solutions, says Mark Cairns, director of franchise development at Toppers Pizza in Whitewater, Wisconsin.
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Toppers Pizza reports healthy sales growth

November 24, 2015 • Company Growth, In The News

Toppers Pizza closed out the 10th period of 2015 (Sept. 7-Oct. 4) with company systemwide sales growth of 13.3 percent. With average store sales reaching $914,000 in 2014, Toppers has seen a 23.3 percent increase in sales. Systemwide same store sales grew by 5.6 percent in the third quarter, led by franchise-owned units enjoying a more than 6.7 percent increase. Company-owned units were up 3.5 percent, marking the fifth straight quarter of same store sales increases of more than 5 percent, according to a company press release.
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Business Watch: Pizza restaurant seeking Topeka franchisee

November 23, 2015 • Company Growth, In The News

A Midwestern pizza chain is looking for a franchisee to expand into the Topeka area.

Mark Cairns, director of franchise development for Wisconsin-based Toppers Pizza, said the restaurant would like to find someone who can open three to five restaurants in Topeka within the next five years. Another franchisee is committed to open five restaurants in the western suburbs of Kansas City and in Lawrence, he said.
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