Home Base: Tulsa, OK
Key Players: Founders Jeff and Lori Walderich, with help from a private investment group
The Story: What brought husband and wife Jeff and Lori Walderich to this concept is an issue facing many couples. “He likes olives, and I hate them,” she says of their pizza preferences. “I felt like I always had to compromise.”
The marketing and operations veterans with experience working for chain restaurants saw a business opportunity, and a way to avoid fighting. Lori, with the restaurant experience, had watched the growth of the better burger and burrito fast-casual segments and wondered why an assembly-line system couldn’t work with pizza. The conversation began in 2007, and two years later, Jeff found the fast-cook ovens online and the discussion heated up.
The first location was the conversion of a sub shop and took just five weeks to complete. Now a snappy online animation on their website shows just how easily another quick-service restaurant can be converted.
Basic Price: A six-inch pizza with unlimited toppings is $5.49, while the 10-inch version is $7.49.
Cook Time: Three minutes in a fast-cook conveyor oven
First Store: Tulsa, OK, in October 2010
Units Open Now/By Year End: 10 (mostly in Oklahoma and Texas) / 15-20
Growth Plan: The concept was built to franchise from the start. The first location is the only corporate-owned store. Lori says Top That! Pizza will have up to 60 more units in five years.