Hot Toppings Pizza may not be Houston’s first parlor to offer the build-your-own pizza concept, but it just might be the best.
Located at our Westhill Village Center in Houston, Texas, Hot Toppings makes personal pizzas (and salads) with unlimited toppings. The ordering experience is akin to that of Subway and Chipotle. Customers follow pie-makers down an assembly line of 25+ toppings (plus specialty hot sauces)—all for one unchanging price. Pizzas bake for just three minutes in the 800-degree oven (the pizza technology lunch crowds everywhere have unknowingly been awaiting).
Although other build-your-own cuisines have thrived for decades (think sandwiches, burritos, and yogurt), pizza is fairly new to the format. New, but amazingly successful. The build-your-own chain Blaze Pizza (founded 2011) grew 205% last year, and MOD Pizza (founded 2008) grew 131%, making them the first and second fastest-growing restaurant chains of 2015.
So what makes Hot Toppings so different? For starters, it’s local.
Houston, with more than 11,000 restaurants representing over 70 countries and American regions, is often touted as one of America’s great food capitals. With so many options (it would take 15 years to patron each restaurant if you dined out twice a day), it can be difficult for a national chain or franchise to stand out. Factor in some good ol’ local Texas pride, and you’re looking at some stiff competition.
Search reviews for Hot Toppings, and you’ll find customers raving about the personable owner and the energetic staff. Search Yelp, and you’ll find that Hot Toppings is the highest rated pizza, salad, and—yes—even restaurant in Houston* (and it’s only been open since December 2015).
The success of Hot Toppings can be traced directly back to the company mission, in which owner Dave Petty and staff strive to “engage [their] communities and provide [their] customers a WOW experience every time through engaged interaction, high-quality ingredients, quick service and a low cost.”
As QSR puts it, “A brand’s connection to its local communities—often exemplified in how it sources ingredients, partners with local businesses, or maintains a mission beyond profits—often results in enthusiastic customers.”
And Hot Toppings does just that. It offers a unique selection of Houston craft beers and wines on tap. The restaurant also hosts wine tastings and partners with local breweries for Tap Takeover events, in which a featured brewery fills all the taps for a limited timed.
The company also prioritizes community involvement—a sentiment present both in the mission statement and the philanthropy statement, which explains that “a percentage of each store’s profits are donated to local charities.”
The restaurant also partners with local organizations to serve the community through donations and volunteerism. Hot Toppings has supported organizations such as MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Center Camp and Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston (MATCH).
The company even hired Houston artist Vena Ashley to paint a mural of the city inside the restaurant on the western wall. The eastern wall also has a mural—a living mural of customer doodles and messages written in marker. People of all ages are welcome to contribute to the ever-growing masterpiece.
Perhaps Hot Toppings supports the arts so strongly because everyone in the company views pizza as an art. One young pie-maker we spoke to has a degree in graphic design, but she finds her joy in making art through pizza. It’s a passion all the pizza artists seem to share. Just look at this masterpiece:
As if pizza wasn’t great enough already, somehow Dave Petty and Hot Toppings envisioned a way to make it better (so much better, in fact, that a second location opens this winter in Houston’s downtown tunnel system). A visit to Hot Toppings isn’t just about pizza—it’s about people. It’s an experience in community and creativity.
It’s simple. It’s human.
*As of 8/22/2016, when searching each individual keyword and sorting by highest rated.
*Buzzfeed published an article on 9/16/16 listing Hot Toppings as the best pizza place in all of Texas, according to Yelp.