Blaze Pizza

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Blaze Pizza
Private
IndustryFood and beverage
GenreFast-casual dining restaurants
Founded2011; 8 years ago (2011) in California
FoundersElise and Rick Wetzel
Headquarters,
Number of locations
300+ (October 2018)[citation needed]
Area served
United States, Canada, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain
Key people
ProductsPizza, salad, desserts, drinks
Websitewww.blazepizza.com

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.[1] NBA player LeBron James is one of the original investors in the chain, which is touted by Bloomberg "as the next Chipotle".[2]

Blaze Pizza was ranked as the #2 brand in the 2015 Fast Casual Top 100.[3]

Besides competing against traditional pizza restaurants, such as Pizza Hut and Sbarro, and quick service fast casual, such as Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panda Express, Blaze Pizza competes directly with similar sized MOD Pizza, Pieology & Pizza Rev and also with much smaller quick service pizza restaurant chains such as Azzip Pizza, Pie Five, Pizza Studio, Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint, and Chipotle-backed Pizzeria Locale.

In a June 2018 article in Restaurant Business Magazine, Blaze Pizza and MOD Pizza were reported as the top two companies in the fast-casual pizza sector at the end of 2017 with both companies out pacing all other rivals. Although MOD had 297 locations while Blaze had 230 locations at the end of 2017, Blaze generated $271.4 million in total system sales while MOD generated $270 million during the same period. These figures gave Blaze a higher per unit sales.[4]

Concept[edit]

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.[5] 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.[6] When they arrive at the end of the line, their custom-built pizza is ready to be cooked.[5][7]

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.[8] 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.[8]

History[edit]

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[9] which was quickly followed two months later by the opening of their second, and flagship, location in October 2012 in Pasadena.[10] In 2014, Zagat noted Blaze Pizza as “One of 10 innovative restaurants around Los Angeles.”[11] During the first year of operation, the Irvine location grossed about $1.8 million and the Pasadena location grossed about $2.5 million.[12] The concept's popularity has been fueled by its obsessive attention to food, design and its unique service culture.[13]

The 10 Blaze locations open throughout 2014 posted $1.55 million average unit volume. By the end of 2014 Blaze had 50 locations in 15 states.[14] Of those 50 locations, only three were company-owned with the rest being owned by franchise operators.[15] Blaze opened its first Chicago location in December 2013.[16] The company opened its first East Coast location in New York in July 2014.[17] In July 2015 the company announced its 80th location and said that it operates in 20 states including the major metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, New York City, Cincinnati, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Miami & Washington D.C.[13] The company's first Northern California location was opened in San Francisco in March 2015.[18] By December 2015, the company opened its 100th location in Indianapolis.[19] In April 2016, the company announced that they had 124 locations in 28 states plus Canada.[20] In August 2016, the 150th location was opened at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.[21] During the first half of 2016, a new Blaze Pizza location was opened approximately every five days, while a new opening occurred once every seven days during the previous year. In July 2017, the 200th location was opened in Mentor, Ohio.[22] By November 2018, the company had 300 locations in 42 states and in five countries.[23]

The company established locations for the first time in the states of Wisconsin in November 2013,[24] Illinois in December 2013,[16] Indiana in February 2014,[25] Ohio in May 2014,[26] Kentucky in June 2014,[27] New York in July 2014,[17] South Dakota in August 2014,[28] Maryland in August 2014,[29] Michigan in September 2014,[30] New Jersey in November 2014,[31] Florida in November 2014,[32] Idaho in November 2014,[33] Tennessee in November 2014,[34] North Carolina in December 2014,[35] Texas in March 2015,[36] Louisiana in April 2015,[37] Nevada in May 2015,[38] Oregon in June 2015,[39] Minnesota in July 2015,[40] Washington in September 2015,[41] Oklahoma in October 2015,[42] Arkansas in October 2015,[43] Virginia in November 2015,[44] Connecticut in December 2015,[45] South Carolina in January 2016,[46] Pennsylvania in February 2016,[47] Arizona in April 2016,[48] Utah in May 2016,[49] Massachusetts in May 2016,[50] Colorado in June 2016,[51] Iowa in July 2016,[52] New Mexico in July 2017,[53] Georgia in September 2017,[54] Kansas in September 2017,[55] North Dakota in October 2017,[56] West Virginia in January 2018,[57] Alabama in February 2018,[58][59] Nebraska in February 2018,[60][61] Missouri in July 2018,[62] Montana in October 2018.[63] and Rhode Island in December 2018.[64]

In 2016, the company had signed several deals to open restaurants in non-traditional locations such as inside airport terminals,[65] on college campuses,[66] and inside sports/entertainment centers.[67] Some of the on campus college locations may participate in the dorm resident meal plans. Access to sports/entertainment centers locations may be restricted to event ticket holders.

In May 2017, president and chief operating officer Jim Mizes was given the additional duties of chief executive officer.[68] Mizes had been with the company as COO since 2012 when the company had only two restaurants.[69]

Growth plan[edit]

By the end of 2014, Blaze had become the first fast-casual pizza restaurant to achieve 50 opened units.[70] 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.[14] On pace to open an average of one new store every five days,[71] the company planned to have at least 500 locations by 2020. An initial public offering might by possible within two or three years after 2015.[2]

In August 2018, Blaze Pizza, as a part of its "Blaze Instantly" initiative, partnered with Punchh for customer engagement and loyalty app. [72] [73]

International[edit]

Canada[edit]

In August 2015, the company announced plans to open its first location outside the U.S., in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.[74] The first Canadian location was opened in Toronto in October 2015,[75] followed by openings a few months later in Calgary in February 2016[76] and Edmonton in April 2016.[77] In May 2018, the company opened its first location in the province of British Columbia in the city of Surrey.[78]

West Asia[edit]

In partnership with Alshaya, Blaze opened its first location outside of North America in the west Asian nation of Kuwait in March 2018.[79] In May 2018, Alshaya had opened its first Blaze Pizza restaurant in Saudi Arabia in the capital city of Riyadh.[80] In September 2018, Alshaya had opened its first Blaze Pizza restaurant in Bahrain.[81]

Menu[edit]

Blaze's Artisan Pizza

In addition to their eight featured Signature Pizzas, a Build-Your-Own option is included. Blaze offers more than 40 fresh toppings to choose from;[82] and at a cost of about $8 plus tax.[83] Each restaurant makes its own dough in-house from scratch.[84] Dough is fermented in the restaurant for 24 hours before use.[85] Blaze offers an optional gluten-free dough and vegan cheese.[86]

Executive Chef Brad Kent, a Culinary Institute of America in New York graduate with a degree in food science and nutrition, is responsible for creating Blaze Pizza's dough and signature recipes.[87][88] In 2013, a writer for Zagat Guide praised Kent's work by writing "Chef Kent's pizzas are darn near perfect."[88]

Salads, S'more pies and blood orange lemonade are among other products listed among the menu. The company had also introduced online ordering[89] to help minimize lines. Where permitted by local alcoholic beverages laws, some franchises also serve beer.[37][42]

Since 2014,[90] the company hosts its annual Pi Day every March 14 (sometimes abbreviated as 3/14) in which all personal pizzas are sold at the discounted price of $3.14 plus tax.[91][92][93] In August 2016, the company began to offer Agua Fresca soft drinks that are made in house with real fruit.[94] In addition to the S'more Pies, Blaze began to offer chocolate chip cookies and brownies, both of which are cooked in the same oven that is used to cook the pizzas, for dessert in November 2016.[95]

In June 2017, Blaze Pizza partnered with the (RED) foundation, renaming its classic red vine pizza to (RED) vine pizza. For every (RED) vine pizza sold during that month, Blaze donated $1 to the (RED) foundation, up to a maximum of $50,000, to help HIV/AIDS research.[96]

Investors[edit]

The brand quickly received attention from early celebrity investors such as journalist, activist and author Maria Shriver, NBA superstar LeBron James, American film producer John Davis, and Tom Werner, television producer and co-owner of the Boston Red Sox.[2]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]