How Brandi Scovell won a Topper’s Pizza franchise
As a store manager for Topper’s Pizza chain, Brandi Scovell did not find
it all that strange to be asked to participate in a corporate training
video for the franchise.
As a store manager for Topper’s Pizza chain, Brandi Scovell did not find it all that strange to be asked to participate in a corporate training video for the franchise. Of course, things are not always what they seem.
Scovell’s twist of fate started long before she knew it. Cineflix Productions approached Keith and Kelly Toppazzini, brothers and owners of the Ontario-based Topper’s Franchise Company, to participate in a concept show that would air one year later on the Food Network as the June 24 episode of Giving You The Business.
“To get the studios on board and everything else, it begins as just a thought and where they were going they didn’t even know exactly, but we knew at the end of the day we would be giving away a franchise. We were excited. We liked the idea. Although there are a lot of reality shows out there, we thought this was unique and lot of people liked how it turned out,” says Keith Toppazzini.
In Giving You The Business, four employees of a restaurant chain are handpicked by company leaders to go through a series of crazy challenges on the job while the bosses watch on hidden cameras. At the end of the day, one will walk away with a big prize, and in the case of Topper’s, it was the key to their very own franchise.
Initially, the brothers went through a series of Skype screenings and then didn’t hear anything for about six months. At that point, Toppazzini figured the concept had died, but then a call from Cineflix came out of the blue. Cineflix wanted to develop the idea. She didn’t know it, but Scovell, a working mother and Oshawa, Ont., resident, was one step closer to the opportunity of a lifetime.
Called up to help with a corporate training video, Scovell was in for one of the weirdest shifts of her career. During the episode, she faced a customer who wanted to use his own toppings and dough, an unprofessional new delivery driver and a group of construction workers who were grossly overpaid. There was even a fighting love triangle and a customer who just refused to make up her mind and order. It would be a trying day on the job by anyone’s books!
“It was quite interesting. It was actually a lot of fun. It was a test for sure,” says Scovell. She adds it was the strangest day at work (but not the scariest for Scovell, who has been robbed at gunpoint on the job). Did she suspect anything was up?
“I thought, if something isn’t going on and this is the typical clientele that was at the Sudbury store where the filming took place, then everybody there needs a raise.”
The customer challenges Scovell faced were invented by the studio, Toppazzini says, so “when we agreed to the show we didn’t get to choose how the show goes.”
“The scenarios they put through were what they thought would be entertaining for the audience, and they certainly were.”
After undoubtedly a long and bizarre day at work, Scovell, along with the three other managers who had been hand picked by the Toppazzinis – Mitchell Simpson from Collingwood, Janette Rizzo of Barrie and Gerry Cayen of Timmins – were finally let in on the big secret.
“I was in complete shock. It was an honour to even be chosen to be part of what I thought was a corporate training video. Again, even more of an honour to be chosen to be on a TV show, and then to actually win it – honestly, I still don’t think it’s completely sunk in. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m learning a lot more than I knew before about the business. And the whole experience was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I’m extremely grateful to Keith and Kelly Toppazzini for giving me this opportunity.”
Scovell says she was surprised by the amount of support the store’s regular customers have given her. After the show aired, there were just as many people calling to congratulate her as there were people ordering, she says.
“The customers and my staff have all been extremely supportive of me and it’s just been a great experience so far.”
She won the store she had been managing previous to being on the show, which was a corporate location at 22 Stevenson Rd. in Oshawa. She had some tough competition to beat, and at the end of the day the Toppazzinis saw something in Scovell that allowed them to make their decision.
There were seven challenges that the brothers saw their talented managers face, but only four made it to air. Over the course of the day, Scovell demonstrated a care for people and customers, a genuine attentiveness that let her personality shine. The bosses were looking for an individual who would take their corporate store to the next level, and Scovell made one gesture in particular that sticks out in Keith Toppazzini’s mind.
“There was one particular scenario where a group of customers came in – construction workers – purposely to create chaos, and then when they left abruptly they were told [by the show] to leave as much money and change behind as possible. By the time the person serving them figured it out, they had overpaid by about $50, which is extremely unusual. What Brandi did, was take the money and put it into the donation box for sick kids, which absolutely floored my brother and I with what a goodwill gesture that was. I’m sure all of those managers could have used the tips, but what Brandi did really brought to our attention the person that we were dealing with.”
Scovell is continuing to learn the Topper’s system, and all the ins and outs of going from being a manager to being an owner, but says that with the support of Keith and Kelly and her Topper’s family – her “second family now” – she knows she’ll be able to get it all done.
“I’m young, I have drive and I know I can be an added success to the Topper’s family.”
The whole experience has been very meaningful for the Toppazzini family. The brothers’ father didn’t start the company until he was 45, and until then he had worked for large chains as a grocery manager. When he decided to go into business for himself, he had very little to put towards the investment. It was a during a hard time for the family, shares Toppazzini, and there weren’t a lot of people supporting his father except for one community bank manager who believed in him and gave him a very small loan that was just enough to start the business.
“One of the things that resonated with us was actually giving someone else the opportunity in life to start their own business and rewarding themselves through their own skills and ability and certainly possibly providing more to their own family, so we thought it as a great opportunity. We feel very fortunate that the Food Network and Cineflix actually chose us.”