Toppers Taps Into Trending Young And Young at Heart

“The pizza segment is a multi-billion-dollar industry. The market is massive. Toppers Pizza, recently named one of the top 50 breakout chains by the industry, offers an opportunity for an individual or a group of investors to become franchisees and compete—and kick tail—against some of the largest pizza companies in the country,” says Mark Cairns, director, franchise development. That kind of David and Goliath story should stir anyone to action. And if that isn’t enough? “We have a proven business model and a way to approach the customer that resonates positively and results in stores with very strong unit level economics. People are tired of buying from ‘the big four.’ Toppers is a great choice. We have the sophistication of a large chain but we are nimble.”

So just how does Toppers approach customers in a way to set it apart? “We are dialed into a somewhat younger demographic, but it’s really younger at heart,” says Cairns. “We have a modern, industrial feel. The atmosphere of the stores makes you feel good. We connect with the younger crowd on Facebook and social media in a big way. We talk to them, have real conversations with them, rather than just bombard them with coupons and discounts. We have a significantly higher number of Facebook fans per location than the larger pizza chains.”

Toppers’ fanatics are crazy for the product. “Our House pizzas and World Famous Topperstix make us different (we make our own dough and grind Wisconsin cheese in the stores daily), and we also have fun with our customers. For example, the last pizza of the night in some locations goes out with a bumper sticker. Our stores are open freaky late, until 3 a.m. We own that market. Everyone else is closed,” says Cairns.

“Toppers Pizza offers an opportunity for an individual or a group of investors to become franchisees and compete—and kick tail—against some of the largest pizza companies in the country.”

Toppers is ready to capitalize on its growing fan base by growing its franchise markets. “We are moving into the Midwest and South, with focus on big markets in Minneapolis, Chicago, Cincinnati, Omaha, and Dallas, where there is brand recognition. 2012 was a banner year for us, with record top-line sales and new store development. We hired more people than ever,” says Cairns. The company has 50 stores open already and about 15 under contract for 2013 (as of late January 2013). Longterm goals are for 150 stores by 2015 and 500 by 2020.

Toppers will keep some corporate stores as it grows. “We operate 13 company stores. They are a great profit center for the company, and they help us understand what it takes to run the restaurants. That keeps us connected to the franchise community so our decisions are not made in a vacuum,” Cairns says.

Ideal Toppers franchise candidates “are people who have some business and restaurant experience. They know how to connect with customers, manage employees and build teams. Of course they are passionate about the Toppers brand and our system,” adds Cairns.

Although the company has some single-store franchise owners, the expectation is that typical investors will develop about five stores. “That way, franchisees can get a larger territory and have growth opportunity,” says Cairns.

Training and support is 24/7 and starts with “28 days to excellence,” where owners learn about hiring, recruiting, managing people and the Toppers business. Once open, the franchisees have an ongoing relationship with franchise business consultants, who make store level inspections, assist with training and do financial reviews with owners. The consultants are point people who franchisees can talk with weekly or even daily.

“We have pretty simple core values we operate by,” says Cairns. “Live with integrity, have fun, build something special, bring it with passion and give customers what they want. Those values speak volumes about who this company is.”

For more information about franchising opportunities with Toppers Pizza, visit