Toppers Pizza got its start in 1991 when Scott Gittrich, former employee of a national pizza chain, decided to go into business for himself. By 2000, his late-night pizza delivery chain had grown successful enough to start franchising, and since then the brand has had no trouble expanding. Forbes noted that the company increased annual revenue by 28 percent between 2007 and 2008 alone, earning nearly $16 million in sales for the year. The franchise now has just over 50 stores in 10 states, and it plans to have 150 stores by the end of 2015. The chain's rise to success serves as a great case study for focusing on a brand with strong niche appeal.
Youth-focused pizza sales
Rather than compete with national brands and other local chains directly, Toppers Pizza has opted to focus on 18-to-24 year olds, said Forbes. The brand exclusively targets locations in college towns or neighborhoods with a high density of young people. Toppers connects to young pizza lovers with edgy slogans and store interiors packed with comfy couches, evoking the look and feel of the classic university hangout. The store also markets itself as a late-night destination, positioning itself to rake in the cash when rival franchises are closing down for the evening. The brand strategy is ideal for franchisees looking to target a very specific market, along with those with a nostalgic affinity for the college atmosphere.
New stores in Omaha, Chicago
Toppers Pizza has continued its university-centered expansion strategy in Nebraska, opening up a new store in Omaha just a few blocks away from Creighton University, according to the Omaha World-Herald. The 1,500-square foot store is run by co-franchisee Jeff Pickering, a former employee at the original Toppers Pizza in Nebraska who worked his way up the chain to ownership. He hopes to launch a multi-unit agreement with Toppers Pizza in the future, targeting neighborhoods near Nebraska Wesleyan University as potential locations for his next store.
DNAinfo noted that Toppers Pizza is branching out as it opens stores in and near Chicago, targeting areas where millennials live and work in droves. Starting in Libertytown, Wrigleyville and Bucktown, the brand plans to open 10 units in the area by the end of 2015. Gittrich spoke about the expansion in Chicago, noting that the brand planned to come in relatively quickly with "a lot of stores to build brand penetration." Stores in the area feature less plush interior decorating than those found near colleges and universities. The brand is able to cut costs on interior design when serving customers more concerned with a quality delivery experience than lounging after class.
Topperstix fuel hunger and growth
Not satisfied to depend solely on the hunger pangs of college students to drive growth, Toppers Pizza has also endeavored to build brand loyalty with its hearty side orders. Leading the push for the snack lover's dollar are Topperstix, the brand's signature breadsticks, which are smothered in toppings like bacon and taco fixings. The side option has been a hit, and Topperstix now make up 25 percent of the brand's sales, according to Nation's Restaurant News. Toppers Pizza will introduce a pretzel option to its list of Topperstix flavors in 2015.