Toppers Pizza was built on a formula of technology and innovation that set us up for success, even amid the pandemic. We’ve created a strong infrastructure to allow us to remain resilient and competitive, and it’s made us one of the fastest-growing pizza chains in the country.
While much of the restaurant industry struggled, the quick-service pizza sector emerged a true leader. With consistent menu innovation, a strong digital presence that ranks among the top of quick-service pizza concepts and a $1 million-plus system-wide AUV, Toppers Pizza is primed for major growth.
Outsiders ask us what separates us from the pack. People want to work at places that do something that matters and believe in what they do. Great leadership and great cultures built around serving the customer and being who you are will always win—with team members and customers.
Customers today are looking past the $5.99 coupon. They want to do business with restaurants that care and do it right. We’re blessed to be in pizza because not only is it a massive segment, but it’s dominated by the big chains that are fixated on the mass production of $5.99 products. That’s not Toppers. It’s easy to be special and differentiated when all of our main competitors are doing exactly the same thing as each other. At Toppers, we know who we are and are focused on executing at a high level.
What was your first job?
I’ve been working in restaurants since I was 15 years old. My first “real job” was at Domino’s Pizza. I spent almost eight years learning the business from a great franchisee. I eventually got a little bit jaded on the lower quality and boring menu and saw the opportunity to do pizza, the world’s greatest food, better. I started Toppers Pizza in 1991, offering made-from-scratch pizza with bold flavors and unusual toppings. I’m proud to have learned the business on the franchisee side of the business from one of our now-competitors.
What’s your favorite cuisine outside of Toppers?
To be honest, the answer is “pizza from other places.” It sounds like a cop out, but it’s the truth. I’m always trying new pizza, especially when I travel. I don’t believe I’ve experienced the geography of a place I’ve visited until I’ve tried its pizza. You don’t know Paris until you’ve had its pizza. But, if I have to pick something besides pizza, I’d pick sushi.
Who inspires you as a leader?
A few of my close friends are business leaders who inspire me because they lead with their hearts and do all business people proud. They care about people and serving people first. If I had to pick someone well-known, I really admire Jimmy John Liautaud. He is a no-BS, keep-it0simple, absolutely genuine and caring leader who built an incredible brand from one store to 3,000. Love that guy.
What’s the best piece of advice that other restaurant executives should hear?
The most important piece of advice I can give is to do something that you believe in. People do wonderful work when they’re engaged with people, doing something that matters. Look past the money to what makes your brand unique and embed that in your leadership and your team members in everything you do. Care about what you do and build your culture around that.
What are some of your interests outside of work?
I’m active and disciplined. I get up early and do my Zen routine: yoga, meditation, journaling. I love to read, bike, run marathons and garden.
I’m in love with my wife more today than ever. We travel and dote on our five kids. It’s true that you turn into the people around you, and at this point in my life I have damn near hand-picked all the people that are in my life. My family, friends, and the people I work and do business with enrich my life and inspire me