Blaze Pizza in Tallahassee
|Industry||Food and beverage|
|Genre||Fast-casual dining restaurants|
|Founders||Elise and Rick Wetzel|
Number of locations
|United States, Canada, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates|
|Products||Pizza, salad, dough knots, desserts, drinks|
Blaze Pizza LLC is a Pasadena, California-based chain within the fast-casual dining restaurants category. Founded in 2011 by Elise and Rick Wetzel of Wetzel's Pretzels, Blaze Pizza was modeled after the Chipotle concept as a made-to-order approach to serving customers. NBA player LeBron James is one of the original investors in the chain, which is touted by Bloomberg "as the next Chipotle".
Blaze Pizza's name was derived from how quickly a create-your-own pizza can be "Fast Fire'd" in a high-temperature open-flame oven – an average cook time is 3 minutes. Customers begin by choosing which of the ingredients they’d like on their pizza. As customers work their way down the service line, staff assemble a pizza based on customer instructions. When they arrive at the end of the line, their custom-built pizza is ready to be cooked.
The Blaze ovens are "7 foot (2.1 m)-wide gas-fired (60,000 BTU (63,000 kJ)) unit operated at average temperatures of 700 °F (371 °C) to 800 °F (427 °C)" according to the company's executive chef. Since the high-temperature gas-fired pizza oven is the only piece of cooking equipment inside each of the restaurants, the same oven is also used to roast the chicken, cook the Italian sausage and meatballs, and bake some of the desserts.
Blaze Pizza was founded in Pasadena, California by Rick and Elise Wetzel in 2011. The fast-fired, customizable pizza concept debuted with their first location in Irvine, California in August 2012 which was quickly followed two months later by the opening of their second, and flagship, location in October 2012 in Pasadena. During the first year of operation, the Irvine location grossed about $1.8 million and the Pasadena location grossed about $2.5 million.
By the end of 2014, Blaze had become the first fast-casual pizza restaurant to achieve 50 opened units. At that time, the company had commitments with franchise partners to open 343 restaurants in 39 states. The chain had grown to $33 million in sales and $1.55 AUV in 2014. On pace to open an average of one new store every five days, the company planned to have at least 500 locations by 2020. An initial public offering might be possible within two or three years after 2015.
In August 2015, the company announced plans to open its first location outside the U.S., in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The first Canadian location was opened in Toronto in October 2015, followed by openings a few months later in Calgary in February 2016 and Edmonton in April 2016. In May 2018, the company opened its first location in the province of British Columbia in the city of Surrey.
In partnership with Alshaya, Blaze opened its first location outside of North America in the west Asian nation of Kuwait in March 2018. In May 2018, Alshaya had opened its first Blaze Pizza restaurant in Saudi Arabia in the capital city of Riyadh. In September 2018, Alshaya had opened its first Blaze Pizza restaurant in Bahrain. In September 2019, Alshaya had opened its first Blaze Pizza restaurant in the United Arab Emirates inside an Abu Dhabi shopping mall.
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- "Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza Announces Grand Opening of First International Location in Canada: Free Pizzas for Blaze Pizza Fans at Toronto Restaurant Near Yonge-Dundas Square on Friday, October 9th". Marketwired (Press release). October 5, 2015.
- "Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza Announces Grand Opening of First Calgary Location: Free Pizzas for Blaze Pizza Fans Near Sunridge Mall on Friday, February 5". Marketwired (Press release). February 1, 2016.
- "Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza Announces Grand Opening of First Edmonton, Alberta Location: Free Pizzas for Blaze Pizza Fans at Manning Town Center, on Friday, April 29". Marketwired (Press release). April 25, 2016.
- "Local Fans Welcome New Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza in British Columbia: Restaurant to Provide Surrey Community with Free Pizzas on Friday, June 1st". GlobeNewswire (Press release). May 29, 2018.
- "Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza Opens First Middle East Location at The Avenues in Kuwait: Additional Locations in Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia Set to Open in 2018". GlobeNewswire (Press release). March 22, 2018.
- "Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza opens first store in Saudi Arabia". Alshaya (Press release). May 27, 2018.
- "Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza hosts launch event in Bahrain". Biz Bahrain. September 16, 2018.
- "Blaze Pizza opens its first branch in UAE". UAE News 24/7. September 4, 2019.