HT: What does this mean for US restaurants and the future of delivery in general?
Toppers Pizza Founder & President Scott Gittrich: “There is going to be consolidation; all of the players are buying transactions at this point. Consolidation has to occur for the business to mature and for the model to get to a place in order to run profitable businesses. In the short term, it won't have a big impact but in the long term, it will put more players in a space, increase competition and increase more businesses being able to win.”
HT: Is this good news?
Gittrich: “From our standpoint, I would call it a non-event; it's a predicted consolidation that will mature the business to work for all parties.” It’s better than a merger with UberEats “purely from a competitive standpoint. It's probably better to still have Uber in the space separately. It’s ultimately better for operators, so that there is more competition in the space.”
HT: What is the future of delivery for your restaurant?
Gittrich: “For businesses like Toppers that self-perform delivery, we feel like we're in the right place to take advantage of the environment today and for the future. Our work with delivery aggregators is a sidebar, and we consider ourselves as the delivery experts, as we have been doing this since we founded our business. In the last few weeks, our delivery platform has been around 60% of our sales and aggregators has been closer to 10%. There have been interesting swings, varying week to week due to promotions, news and events but in the last couple of weeks we have seen the percentage coming from aggregators has reduced and our theory is that there are more restaurants opening coming onto their platforms, so there is a bigger pool on the platform for customers to choose from. Our sales have been growing on Toppers.com throughout the year, and we expect that they will continue to climb. Ordering on Toppers.com is so much more valuable to our business; we can make money on [those aggregator] orders, but our value proposition isn't great and we're charging more than we would like to charge our customers on those platforms.”
HT: You started Toppers, based in Whitewater, Wisconsin., back in 1991 with the mission to be the best pizza company in the world.
Gittrich: “The founding of Toppers was based on the idea that QSR pizza delivery didn't have to be cookie cutter, low quality pizza. Our founding idea is that we would make our food from scratch with fresh ingredients, fresh dough and unusual toppings in a delivery/takeout format. Time and time again we see people jumping on the trends, and to their credit we see concepts discover how challenging it is to do what we do. Our segment has benefited greatly, because we're on top of it and have been doing this since day 1. We have gone through all of the operational challenges people are just now experiencing today and trying to keep up with.
HT: Where do you see the industry headed?
Gittrich: We were founded as a delivery and carry out business and we have done high volume from that aspect of our business since the day we opened, and that has continued to grow and has really jolted forward more recently. It's the new normal for many businesses but has been our new normal for a long time. We are confident that this is here to stay and will continue to increment forward. I haven't been this excited about our concept and the QSR Pizza segment, as I have been in 15 years. It's like the clouds cleared and we have room to run. Not just delivery and carry out.
HT: What has been one of your top challenges in recent times?
Gittrich: "... The thing that has been so challenging the last 3 years is too many restaurants and not enough people. That's done. That's a thing of the past. There are fewer restaurants, plenty of people, and demand as far as the eye can see. We've got runway, we're growing and will continue to do so. System-wide sales, record sales this period and last period. We're up as a system about 30% over last year.
HT: Do you use third-party delivery services in general or is it your own delivery?
Gittrich: "Fifteen years back, a customer either called us or came into the store. Today, customers are coming to us through social, aggregators, curbside and of course through our own platforms. We go where customers go and have built the technology platforms to go to those places to meet them."
HT: How has Toppers Pizza pivoted during the pandemic and what tech solutions have you used to power online ordering and loyalty?
Gittrich: "We have invested millions of dollars over the past several years to develop our own proprietary platform, (pizmet). That investment has paid off huge during this crisis, and we were able to provide customers new access points for curbside, meeting points, and contactless delivery in order to serve them seamlessly and meet them wherever they are. "