With the media and industry experts touting the importance of executive transparency, many brands and leaders are placing a greater emphasis on being open both with their staff and customers. But while the definition of transparency may seem as simple as being honest about actions and motivations, putting it into practice in the quick-service and fast-casual environment can be complex and challenging, especially when it comes to striking the balance between oversharing and secrecy.
Despite the crowded pizza category, Toppers Pizza is taking its share of the more than $40 billion pie.
System-wide sales increased by more than 40 percent for both company-owned and franchised units in the first quarter of 2013, and same-store sales for company units were up 13.59 percent in the same period.
Franchise units saw a same-store sales increase of 12.58 percent in Q1, compared to the first quarter of 2012.
Toppers Pizza isn’t shy about one of its biggest ambitions: taking market share from the national chains. That’s why the brand launched a television campaign designed to appeal to the 18–34-year-old Millennial demographic and steal the spotlight from its biggest competitors.
The “Taste Test” commercials feature customers putting a Toppers pizza through several situations—a slip-and-slide and an angry girlfriend, for example—and determining, “Yep, still delicious.”
Offer a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder to casual McDonald’s customers, and they might shrug. But offer a Shamrock Shake or a McRib, and there’s a good chance they’ll salivate. These menu options have become hugely successful at the fast-food giant, despite being offered for only a few weeks out of every year.
So why doesn’t McDonald’s add them to the permanent menu? Largely because quick serves have discovered that a good limited-time offer can boost brand excitement and even single-handedly drive sales.
By clustering store openings, Toppers Pizza has found a strategic growth strategy that simultaneously protects brand awareness and boosts social media fans.
The multiunit growth strategy brings in a seasoned business partner who is dedicated to building at least five to six stores.
“It gets somebody on board who is interested and capable of opening and operating the stores,” says Mark Cairns, the director of franchise development at Toppers. “When we can put them together and cluster, we’re able to be closer to the community and closer to our customers.”
As the economy slowly strengthens, founders of successful eateries may be considering franchising as a growth model, but experts say CEOs must approach it with caution and do their due diligence to make sure it’s appropriate for their brand.
The first step, experts say, is to explore the viability of their brand on a bigger scale.
Paul Wilke and his wife, Sue, have transformed their Toppers Pizza franchise unit in Mankato, Minnesota, into a must-have meal for Millennials. The couple has built and maintained a relationship with Minnesota State University (MSU), which has almost single-handedly driven their business since the store opened in 2007.
Having beat out larger brands like Papa John’s and Domino’s for the MSU partnership, the Wilkes’ Toppers unit thrives on campus activities, from involvement in athletic events to student-organized fundraisers.
With Memorial Day around the corner and the nation’s attention turned to the men and women who have served the country, one franchisee says military veterans like himself should be top of mind for franchisors as potential franchisees.
Derek Henze, a Minneapolis-based Toppers Pizza franchisee who served in Iraq, says his eight years of experience in the military helped him develop the business sense necessary to own a franchise.
Toppers Pizza announced that, as a means to accelerate growth, the company will start focusing on employing multiunit franchisees with diverse portfolios instead of single-unit operators.
The 28-unit, Whitewater, Wisconsin–based brand is aiming to have 100 units open and operating by 2013, says director of marketing Scott Iversen.
“We think it’s a nice, attractive investment option for that experienced restaurateur that operates different concepts,” Iversen says. “It’s easy for them to plug into and it’s something that is scalable that works.”
Since mid-December, seven major snow storms have hit states all over the U.S., from the Northeast to the West Coast and everywhere in between.
This bleak weather “has literally dimmed the bulb on the restaurant business pretty much across the board,” says David Crane, CEO of BlueSky Local, a slow sales response solution for restaurants.
BlueSky’s research finds that almost 75 percent of surveyed restaurant owners report that changes in weather result in at least a 10 percent sales decrease.