A pizza chain targeted for 18-to-24-year-old college students has opened its first Arkansas location in the City of Colleges.

A Toppers franchisee recently committed to developing multiple Toppers locations in the greater Little Rock area including Conway, Little Rock and North Little Rock.

The new Conway Toppers franchise will be the first in the state, located at the corner of Oak and Harkrider, in the former location of Quizno’s.

“With our catchy advertising and slogans, we appeal to a college age town, said TY Lanehart, operations manager of the Oak Street Toppers.

The slogans Lanehart refers to include the companies motto: “We treat every pizza with tender love and care–the same way we treated your girlfriend last night.”

The menu includes a variety of specialty pizzas, Topperstix, wings and soft drinks. Topperstix, a type of cheese stick, are described as “the hot sister” of Toppers pizza.

The store opens each day at 10:30 a.m. and doesn’t close until 3 a.m. for late night study sessions or cravings after college football games.

The company started in Champaign, Ill. with the first Toppers location opening in 1991. Since then, Toppers has spread throughout the Midwest.

The Conway location focuses on deliveries. There are two high-top tables for customers who want to eat their pizza at the store, and a leather coach and chair situated in front of four flat screen TVs for those waiting on a to-go order.

Leah Harmon, assistant manager of the Oak Street Toppers, said she plans to work with University of Central Arkansas, so the store can start accepting BearBucks, a declining balance program for UCA student ID cards.

“I got their number last week,” she said. “It’s just getting ahold of them, and getting it all set up, so hopefully we’ll be accepting (BearBucks) really soon,” she said.

Toppers’ mission is to be the best pizza concept nationally by killing it with customer experience, Cheek said.

Saturday Toppers will celebrate its first Arkansas location with a grand opening party in the parking lot, complete with games, music and free food.

The first 50 customers who walk through the doors on Saturday will receive free pizza for a year.

“We really try to connect with guests at a food level, but also take it one step further at an emotional level, and it starts at the first 50,” Cheek said.

Those first 50 customers will receive a series of 52 coupons to use each week for the rest of the year.

“This week it might be a free large house pizza, and the next week it might be a single order,” Harmon said. “Each week you get to try something different.”

Harmon said she has received several phone calls about the promotion. Past grand openings have had customers camp outside the restaurant for up to two days before the grand opening.

“Often when we’ve done these we’ve had people camp out for multiple nights despite the weather,” Cheek said.

Harmon said a Toppers employee will be stationed at the store all night on Friday to assist the customers who plan to camp out.

“It’s not going to be like a Black Friday thing,” she said. “There’s going to be someone outside to regulate it.”

Cheek said the first 50 helps establish the city’s first “Toppers fanatics,” a concept the company encourages and embraces.

Toppers has been named among Nation’s Restaurant News 50 Breakout Chains of 2013, and was ranked No. 343 in Entrepreneur magazine’s top 500 franchises.

(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at michelle.corbet@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1215.)
To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)