Topp’t, at 323 W. Cardinal Blvd., is the third location overall and the first in Louisville. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Rick Kueber, a co-founder of Sun Tan City and Planet Fitness franchisee, has opened his third location of Topp’t Handcrafted Pizza + Chopped Salads and the first in Louisville.

The fast-casual restaurant, located in the heart of the University of Louisville campus at 323 W. Cardinal Blvd., blends build-your-own pizzas and salads with a unique drink and dessert program that is designed to be family friendly. As in, sometimes a parent wants something a bit more healthful and less redundant – thus, the chopped salad option.

“As a parent,” Kueber, who has three children, says, “I got tired of eating pizza.”

Not only that but as Kueber puts it, if a family of four goes out to dinner and orders one pizza, someone is going to be disappointed with the toppings. He considers Topp’t a combination of Blaze, Chop Shop Salads and Sonic, offering multiple options, as well as a variety of non-soda drinks ranging from hand-squeezed lemonade to grape punch.

More than 60 toppings are available. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

The demographic on the U of L campus obviously is different, but Kueber noted there aren’t many pizza restaurants nearby, and the fast-casual concept makes it student-friendly from a price perspective.

The first Topp’t opened three and a half years ago in Elizabethtown, while a second opened in New Albany in 2016.

The menu includes more than 60 pizza toppings, with regular cheese pizzas priced starting at $4.99 and “mini” pizzas at $2.99. There are four signature salads, or customers can create their own, starting at $5.99 for a half salad. A $1.99 kids’ meal includes a mini pizza and a s’more for dessert. Pizzas and salads are created as the customer walks through the line and then cooked in a brick oven.

The new location, in the 3,200-square-foot space previously occupied by Griff’s, is clean and open, with seating for 92, plus additional seating in a patio area facing Cardinal Boulevard. One wall in the restaurant is adorned by a huge enlargement of a photo of the area dating to the 1950s.

Sun Tan City, which is in its 20th year, now has more than 280 stores in 21 states, while Planet Fitness has well over 50 locations in seven states. Kueber thinks, in the long run, Topp’t has the potential to be a 50- or 100-store chain. However, he says he plans to “let the dust settle” in the “insanely crowded” fast-casual space before considering growth.

“Maybe one day, but it’s really crowded,” he says.

The fast-casual restaurant seats more than 90. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

He also wants to make sure he finds the right system that, as he puts it, would keep the “fast” in “fast casual.” Much of this comes down to having the right staff, as well as the right service processes in place, Kueber says, adding that offering a consistent product from the standpoint of the food also is critical.

“Obviously, I’m biased, but I think we have the best product in the category,” Kueber says.

One motivation for launching Topp’t was because most competitors in the space offer pizza alone. Variety, along with desserts and the drink program, appeal to a broader audience, particularly families, he says.

“We understand that kids make dinner decisions,” Kueber says, “or have a role in those decisions. We thought that there was an opportunity.”

Kevin Gibson
Kevin Gibson tackles the 3Rs — retail, restaurants, real estate — plus, economic development. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono. Check out his books, “Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft” and “100 Things to do in Louisville Before You Die.” He has won numerous awards for his work but doesn’t know where most of them are now. In his spare time, he plays in a band called the Uncommon Houseflies.Email Kevin at [email protected]