Toppers Pizza hopes to make some dough in the Upstate


A Wisconsin-based pizza chain hopes roll out new stores in the Upstate.

Toppers Pizza, a concept that grew out of a pizzeria founded in Champaign, Ill., in 1991, announced Tuesday it is looking for franchisees to open up to 10 new stores across the region during the next few years.

“Things are really good in the pizza business right now,” said Mark Cairns, director of franchise development for Toppers Pizza. “But about 45 percent of the market is still controlled by large brands. There’s not a lot of soul to them. It’s just a convenience factor… That is starting to change.”

Cairns said the company has doubled in size to 76 locations in 14 states in under four years. Toppers Pizza already has 9 leases signed for 2017, he said. It plans to open 14 stores this year and crack two new markets, Colorado and Virginia.

“There are a lot of different pizza options out there,” Cairns said. “We hit the core market of people that want a great quality product delivered to their house in and around 30 minutes.”

He said the company’s research has identified the Upstate as an area that is primed for growth.

Toppers Pizza has had a presence in Charlotte, N.C., for about 15 years, Cairns said. The company is in the process of adding one store in Charlotte, one in Fort Mill and two others in Raleigh, N.C.

For the Upstate, he said the company hopes to partner with three or four franchisees to open as many as five stores in Greenville, three to four in Spartanburg and one to two in the Clemson area.

One of the biggest indicators the company looks at for a new store is household density, Cairns said, which is between 20,000 and 25,000 “deliverable addresses” within range of the store.

He said Toppers Pizza locations are typically 1,300 to 1,500 square feet. The company prefers “neighborhood” strip centers with good visibility.

Cairns said the company’s stores typically employ 25 team members, including one general manager and three assistant managers.

He said franchisees looking to open a single location should have about $150,000 in liquid capital and a net worth of $500,000. For franchisees opening multiple locations, the company typically wants $350,000 in liquidity and between $750,000 and $1 million in net worth.

Cairns said 24 out of Toppers Pizza’s 76 stores are corporately owned. He said the company offers franchisees extensive training, operations support, marketing services and continual coaching.

The company’s growth in 2017 will result in the creation of about 1,100 jobs nationwide, he said. That includes 500 jobs at new stores and 600 additional hires at existing locations.

Cairns said Toppers Pizza’s philosophy is based on offering customers quality products and transparent, affordable pricing. Unlike its competitors, the company’s stores are open until 3 a.m.

“We don’t nickel-and-dime the customer,” he said. “We’re the night owls [of the pizza industry]. The bulk of our business is at dinner, but we do a lot of business after midnight.”

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