I was taught by good people that you can capture magic if you’ve got a wonderful place that attracts really good people who believe in what you do. The thing that really gets me is there are about 1,300 Toppers team members out there today, and by and large, those people are highly engaged and believe that we’re building something special; they’re very passionate about what we’re doing.

Running a good restaurant, having a good team of people who are doing things together, is a lot like art. I hate to sound goofy about it, but to me, the restaurant business is art; it takes creativity, it takes good logic skills and being a good business person. What inspires me is meeting new franchisees, new franchise prospects, people who are considering our business, meeting new team members in the Toppers Pizza family, and to know that they’re trying to get something really special in their life out of Toppers Pizza. Toppers Pizza has been my life’s work, and to see other people connect to it in a special way that is meaningful in their life—I’m telling you, it’s hard to imagine having a job that feels more special than that. When I meet people who have been working at Toppers Pizza a long time and I haven’t met them yet, and they’re feeding me the Toppers love, they’re telling me how much it means to them, I get some deep satisfaction that work I’ve done in the past led to that opportunity for that person to do that.

I paused when I was 40 and I said, “You know, I’ve been doing this for 20 years, maybe I should think, if I was going to get good at some other profession, I still could work for 20 or 30 more years if I change right now.” And I paused when I was 40 and thought about being an architect, or a kindergarten teacher, or an attorney. And I reaffirmed to myself that nope, I’ve got a good thing going. Every day is different, I’ve got plenty to learn, plenty to prove—this is my career. I’m highly likely at this point to end my career at Toppers Pizza and to spend a good 30 or 40 years doing it, because it’s so different on a daily basis.

What was your first job?

Paper boy. I had four paper routes at one time.

When did you first enter the quick-service industry?

In 1978, as a 15-year-old, I started working for an Arby's franchisee in Peoria, Illinois.

What is your favorite menu item at Toppers?

Topperstix, our signature.

What is your favorite restaurant or type of food (excluding Toppers)?

I love pizza and eat pizza everywhere I go. My family knows what my answer is when the question "where do we eat" comes up. Pizza makes a day and a life better. Feed your kids pizza at least once a week and watch them grow up to be successful happy people. Really.

What current restaurant trend is the most exciting to you?

The customer cares more about good food than ever before. That is a trend that works for us.If you hadn't started Toppers, what would your career have been instead? My best guess is that I would have eventually started another restaurant concept.

Who are some leaders that inspire you?

Admire, I could name many, but inspire… that's a big word. [Domino's founder] Tom Monaghan, who built a company of passionate people driven by values; and Walt Disney, because of his creative drive to serve kids and their parents (customers).

Business Advice, Pizza, Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs, Story, Toppers Pizza