David Rutkauskas is the founder, president and CEO of Beautiful Brands International. He is responsible for the successful launch of worldwide, franchised brands including Camille’s Sidewalk Café and FreshBerry Frozen Yogurt Cafe. Lori Walderich is co-creator of Top That! Pizza.
What inspired Beautiful Brands to take on this concept and why do you think it’ll succeed?
Rutkauskas: My company decided to bring Top That! Pizza on as a franchise partner because we saw the clear potential of build-your-own pies as an untapped category within the fast-casual industry. As the franchise-development arm of Top That! Pizza, leading the architecture and real estate efforts of the franchise system, we knew we had a great solution for struggling sub shops that could be transformed into a Top That! Pizza within four weeks or fewer, using much of the same equipment they already have. This sort of build-your-own-pizza model is a first in the industry and an exceptional concept for marketing to the consumer on a personal level.
The standard $5.99 price seems to be a surprising number, given that a medium pie price can average in the teens. How does a restaurant survive with such a low price?
Walderich: The Top That! price point of $5.99 is just a starting point for the average customer. When you factor the extras that they buy, such as drinks and desserts, the average check is around $8 to $10, which is just about right for fast casual. Franchisees also see a savings from using locally sourced products and appealing to consumers in multiple day parts. Revenue generates from the full range of options offered and streamlining costs and not just a single product focus.
What kinds of strategies are being used in marketing this new concept to consumers?
Walderich: Because Top That! was developed by the principals of one of the restaurant industry’s top marketing firms, IdeaStudio, a large emphasis was made on properly branding and positioning the concept from the start. The grand opening launch included PR, a giveaway of free pizza for a year, a very active and vibrant Facebook presence and a targeted door-hanger campaign introducing the concept. To date, these efforts have been highly successful.
Does social media have a role in your marketing strategy? How will it differentiate from other Beautiful Brand efforts?
Rutkauskas: Social media is a huge part of our overall marketing strategy. Because Lori and Jeff Walderich are industry leaders when it comes to restaurant marketing, they’ve created a marketing support system for franchisees that includes both traditional and new-media efforts. BBI has also implemented an ongoing digital branding campaign that has enjoyed tremendous success using social media tools. Our rankings on websites such as Twitter Grader have continued to climb because of our commitment to grow the Web reach of our brands and build a digital presence that continues to multiply. We believe Top That! Pizza delivers the perfect format for our media strategy, allowing us to focus more than ever on social media and putting consumers front and center of our overall business model.
SmartBrief’s Doris Nhan contributed to this interview.