Thursday, November 17, 2011

Toppers Pizza expanding from Cincinnati to Highland Heights

When Bob, Dave and Ricky Fullarton opened the first Toppers Pizza location in Ohio, the father sons trio expected great things. Today, the University of Cincinnati location has won over the hearts and taste buds of thousands of happy customers. Now, the Fullarton’s will take Toppers Pizza on the road – opening directly over the border in Highland Heights, KY, making them yet another multi-unit owner within the hot pizza franchise’s system.

“Our customers are true fans at our University of Cincinnati location. We fully expect the same type of following as we expand and add more units throughout the DMA,” said Dave Fullarton, who manages the restaurant.

The newest addition to the 30-unit pizza chain will open in December at 2517 Wilson Ave. Just like its UC location, Toppers Pizza will once again give the first 50 guests in line free food for a year and reward fans that day with prizes and giveaway rewards (fanatics should watch for details).

“The Fullartons are great examples of franchisees who came into the system and took it by storm,” said Scott Iversen, Director of Franchise Development that has plans to cross over the 100-unit mark in 2013. “When I came on board, I was immediately introduced to the entrepreneurial trio. I knew they were creating something special, especially with the high level of passion they brought to the table.”

The big pizza chains serve their purpose: mediocre food, mediocre promises and mediocre connections. Toppers Pizza, a 30-unit eclectic pizza delivery franchise brand, doesn’t follow those characteristics. To prove its tasty promise to consumers, Toppers will celebrate this reprieve with two grand opening celebrations unmatched by the big guns at its new location.

“When we open a location, it truly is a celebration. No fake grand openings with boring ribbon cuttings. We go for the grand slam with the way we open, the way we connect with our customers and the tastes we offer on our menu,” said Scott Gittrich, CEO of the emerging chain and former Dominos Pizza delivery driver. “Trust me; I quickly learned what not to do with our customer bonds. This is their party, not ours.”

Along with its ability to tap into the most influential demographic, 18-34 year olds, Toppers has made a name for itself as innovators of unique menu items. Toppers was the first delivery brand to capture the cheesy bread marketplace with its famous Topperstix. Toppers has never shied away from innovation with its Mac ‘N Cheese, Potato Topper, Cool C-B-R (Chicken-Bacon-Ranch), The Hangover Helper, Buffalo Wings, Quesadillas, Grinders, and dozens of other menu items. Differentiating itself from the competition, 70 percent of Toppers’ sales come from items not traditionally found on competitors’ menus.

When the big chains are down, Toppers has remained up, taking names and gripping its share of the $40-plus-billlion pizza industry. In 2011, Toppers increased average unit volumes and system-wide sales, opening four stores with 20 more under contract. Why the upswing?

“The reason for our success is simple, meaning that we are not one of the ‘Wal-Marts’ of the industry. The big chains have lost identity and brand connection,” Gittrich said. “Our customers are fanatical about our brand. Our quirkiness and edginess has given our brand character, so we have been able to continue our growth and bonding with an untapped national demographic: the 18-34-year olds.”

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