BJ's was founded in 1978 and first opened in Orange County, California. By 1996, seven restaurants had opened between San Diego and Los Angeles. Originally known as Chicago Pizza & Brewery Inc., the company went public about 1996, raising $9.4 million. The company then bought 26 Pietro's Pizza restaurants in March 1996 in a $2.8 million deal in cash and assumed debt, but then sold off seven of the locations with plans to convert the remaining Pietro's to what was then BJ's Pizza. Between 2010 and 2011, the National Retail Federation named it as one of the 10 fastest growing restaurants in the U.S. based on year-over-year sales.