Pizza transparency: Bringing the Toppers Pizza experience closer to fans.
By Scott Gittrich
For a very long time, I pictured Toppers Pizza’s success as simply out-competing the competitors. This meant wanting it more, executing at a higher level, working longer and working harder. I often referred to it as a prize fight — we go toe to toe with the biggest, baddest restaurant companies in the world and we knock them down. They underestimate us. They have more money. More history. More follows. But even so, we beat them.
Then, a few years ago I had a big “aha” moment. A smart marketing executive proved to me that we had a special brand that gave us real advantages in a competitive market place. He didn’t believe we won because we worked harder; he believed we won because we really were the best in many important respects. Up until that day, I really did think of us as simply the underdog, and truly realizing that we had created a built-in margin of victory was very special for me — and it continues to be.
Today, Toppers continues to fight like we’re the strongest and smartest brand in the pizza industry — and we think that’s the secret to being unstoppable. That’s why, every single day, we’re working like mad to be way above average. I left behind a career with [a major pizza chain] back in the early 1990s after realizing the pizza they were making was cheap, homogenous and, well, just not that great. I knew I could create something better — a pizza place where high quality and quick delivery existed symbiotically. But, most importantly, I wanted to create a pizza joint that people were proud to call their pizza place.
Backed by a team of pizza industry veterans, we set out to be more innovative. First, we conquered the better pizza recipe. Then, we conquered fast delivery. And, most recently, after realizing just how critical transparency is for concepts looking to thrive, we identified another important chapter in our journey — improving the very foundation that keeps our business running every single day: our kitchen.
Walk into our Milwaukee Eastside Toppers location today, and you’ll notice things are a little different — the kitchen is no longer closed off to customers. Instead, we decided to break down barriers, allowing our guests to interact with Toppers team members and get an up-close look at the from-scratch, high-quality promise we have for every single pizza that comes out of our oven.
Our new show kitchen gives today’s customers exactly what they want in the exact way they want it. In the past, customers may have preferred food to magically appear from behind closed doors, with no indication whatsoever about how the sausage is made — figuratively and literally. After years of hearing fast food horror stories that’ll turn your stomach, however, the prototypical modern diner seems to want transparency rather than mystery — and who can blame them?
For maximum transparency, Toppers has turned to the open kitchen. I’m proud to say that nearly 26 years since I founded Toppers, we still make our food from scratch in a way that most of our competitors don’t. By opening up our kitchen, we’re inviting guests to see that for themselves. Customers can now witness people preparing their food —and that creates a certain personal connection that you don’t normally find with big chains. And in the year ahead, this next generation of Toppers will influence every store here on out as we work towards our 100-unit goal in 2017. We’re excited for hundreds of customers — both new and old — to experience our new store prototype firsthand.
No matter where you get your pizza from, today, one thing is clear — people will always deny that they go to bigger pizza chains. We’re aiming to split the difference. We’re still the little guys and we’re still the underdogs; we have a certain level of transparency and we have the quality, made-from-scratch pizzas that people want. At the same time, we’re allowing our customers to have the convenience and other things (such as delivery) that they desire from a franchise chain. It’s very important to us to be someone’s pizza place — to be the go-to restaurant every time someone craves a really great pizza. We’re able to do this as we grow as a franchise, and that’s because we’re focused on that sweet spot in between.
— Scott Gittrich is president and founder of Toppers Pizza. Headquartered in Wisconsin, Toppers is one of the fastest growing better-pizza chains in the United States with restaurants in 14 states. The brand has doubled in size over the last 3 years and completely sold out three states. In 2017, Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Toppers as one of the top 500 franchises in the U.S for the third year in a row and in 2016, QSR Magazine listed the company as one of the year’s Best Franchise Deals. Visit http://www.toppersfranchise.com/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.