When Toppers Pizza first broke into the booming pizza industry 25 years ago, it knew it had created something special. By combining quality ingredients and unrivaled menu innovation with fast delivery times and a unique company culture, the brand was sure to steal business away from the big pizza chains. But growing its franchise concept outside of the Midwest proved to be a challenge. That’s when the brand decided to work with No Limit Agency.
Since partnering with NLA in May of 2009, Toppers has grown from 18 units to more than 70 open locations across the country. And through strategic media placements in both trade and consumer publications, targeted social media campaigns, content marketing through 1851 Franchise and franchise development consulting, Toppers has sold 100 franchise units with NLA’s help.
In order to jump start that impressive and rapid growth, No Limit Agency first set out on a mission to tell the story of Toppers and the people behind it. It continues to do that by highlighting the brand’s excellent unit-level economics, superior products, unparalleled brand integrity, one of a kind personality, and most importantly, Toppers’ refreshing alternative to other uninspiring pizza chains.
To date, NLA has secured over 600 media placements for the brand, resulting in a collective PR value of $7,020,891 and an ad value of $2,005,968. But these media placements go beyond generating buzz—they explain the Toppers brand to potential franchisees. One article in QSR Magazine, for example, highlighted how multi-unit franchisee Todd Geatches succeeds in the pizza business with the backing of the brand.
“One of Toppers’ core values is to live with integrity, so we look for people who have a great attitude, integrity, and are going to make our customers happy and each other happy when they’re at work,” said Geatches in an interview coordinated by No Limit Agency. “A lot of companies say the customer is No. 1, and of course the customer is extremely important, but in my view, our team members are everything.”
Articles that run in major trade and national publications also often lead to signed franchise agreements. Whether it’s a feature on millennials running businesses with their parents in Entrepreneur or a story on innovative and delicious mac & cheese pies on Fox Business, No Limit Agency gets Toppers’ story in front of the right audience.
That also means securing local media placements and generating buzz at the brand’s existing—and thriving—stores. One of the most successful local campaigns revolves around Skin Sprints, one of Toppers’ signature events that takes place at its annual franchisee conference. Restaurant owners race against the clock—and each other—to toss and dress six pizza skins. No Limit Agency capitalized on the event’s hype and strong visuals by creating three distinct media opportunities: coordinating print and TV interviews in-store for the regional qualifiers before the event, in-studio segments to show off the regional winners’ skills and post-event interviews and segments with the final winner.
Those media placements—in combination with the hundreds of other secured placements coordinated by No Limit Agency—have created a strong level of brand awareness for Toppers on both a national and local level. Not only does that publicity bring in more customers, it also attracts prospective franchisees. To field those requests and engage only top tier, qualified candidates, NLA helped Toppers forge a new path in terms of its franchise development strategy.
The brand is now partnering with multi-unit franchisees at record rates. In fact, Toppers has secured a total of four multi-unit deals that will open 46 units in previously untapped development markets like South Dakota, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Maryland and Virginia.
Toppers’ expansion in Maryland and Virginia is being spearheaded by a seasoned franchise group that’s led by a former Domino’s franchisee and Papa John’s executive. And it was the brand’s potential for nationwide expansion that inspired Mike McLaughlin and his wife Helen to franchise with Toppers over other chains.
“The corporate infrastructure that Toppers has in place makes the brand primed to shine on the national level. They’re laser focused on helping franchisees to succeed to ultimately grow the brand across the United States. There’s definitely room for Toppers to compete with major chains, and its superior menu offerings really make it stand out,” said McLaughlin. “I ultimately decided to grow with Toppers over other pizza brands because the entire team is overflowing with passion not only for the product, but also for its customers.”
In addition to signing multi-unit deals with entrepreneurs who are new to the system, Toppers’ existing franchisees are also expanding their reach by opening more units. To tell those success stories and encourage other owners to do the same, the brand enlisted the help of 1851 Franchise. The digital publication’s team of content producers, editors and development strategists worked alongside Toppers’ team—from corporate executives to local franchisees—to uncover the brand’s best stories.
Those articles were then distributed to a specific target audience. Through 1851’s proprietary AMPD program, the brand is able to ensure that these articles are placed directly in front of qualified candidates who fit the profile of Toppers’ ideal franchisee. 1851 content can also be distributed to specific target development markets and cities in which the brand is actively looking to grow.
“It comes down to the fact that Toppers offers multi-brand franchisees an unprecedented opportunity for growth. It’s virtually impossible for other franchisors to have the same top tier markets open for development that we do,” Mark Cairns, Toppers’ director of franchise development told 1851. “The Toppers brand has tremendous upward poten
tial—our strong unit level economics and positive investment to sales ratio shows that we’re the next big player in the pizza delivery category.”
With multiple locations now in development across the country, NLA has helped Toppers become a household name. By leveraging a variety of services, the pizza brand has positioned itself as a segment leader and taken an aggressive—and successful—approach to franchise development.
“At its core, Toppers is a brand focused on serving the highest quality pizza with fast and friendly service. It’s a model that has proven itself to be successful time and time again,” Scott Gittrich, founder and president of Toppers, told 1851. “Our model attracts veteran restaurateurs and multi-unit franchisees looking for the next great thing to add to their portfolio.”