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.”
That proximity, Cairns says, helps local-store marketing and drives the brand’s social media presence.
The strategy appears successful, so far; as of May 16, Toppers had 50,531 likes on Facebook, or about 1,232 fans per location. In comparison, Domino’s Pizza has nearly 7 million Facebook fans, resulting in 744 per location.
“You’re not having to reinvent the wheel when you go into a market and no one knows you,” says Nick Powills, chief brand strategist at No Limit Media Consulting, which runs Toppers’ social media strategy. “Every time they open one community over, it will affect the growth of the business, because there was direct brand awareness.”
Cairns says clustered growth has allowed Toppers to efficiently use its resources by sharing, for example, the marketing and labor costs. He says Toppers plans to expand nationwide at some point, but while the company is young, it is able to concentrate and be very effective in the selected markets it approaches.
“I guess the only drawback would be it might hold our unit growth expansion back just a little bit,” Cairns says. “So, for example, if somebody called us today and wanted to open a store in Tampa, Florida, and all they wanted to do was just open one store, we’d say no.”
Spreading out franchisees is a bad idea from the social media standpoint as well, Powills says. Isolated franchisees feel the need to create individual Facebook pages for their locations, which further separates them from the brand.
“From the get-go, we said, ‘[Toppers] franchisees, you do not go create your own pages. We’re going to create a giant brand [page],’” Powills says. “And the franchisees quickly embraced it because they saw the dividends being paid off from the main page.”
He points to Pita Pit, a brand that is four times the size of Toppers but has a third of its social media fans because it runs multiple Facebook pages.
“Pita Pit is now trying to pull in, reign in the franchisees with local pages because it has diluted the brand,” he says. “The cool thing about Toppers is, we developed that social media strategy early on. The clustered growth effect has worked extremely well with social media, too.”
By Sonya Chudgar