The 300-location mark is a fairly big deal in franchising; it’s a milestone that few concepts ever reach. Just 108 franchised brands have grown beyond the 300 mark. It was a nice milestone at Blaze, however, when the company ticked over 300 in November 2018, CEO Jim Mizes didn’t spend too much time patting his back.
“I can be guilty of not celebrating where we have been, but really it’s what comes next within the evolution in the blaze pizza menu to have us from 300 to 700 or whatever is next,” said Mizes.
Founders Rick and Elise Wetzel built that growth mindset right into the brand DNA. So even at 176 percent sales growth and 121 percent location growth from 2015 through 2017, it’s all area of the plan.
“We always said from the beginning, let’s think and act like we’re a one thousand-restaurant organization,” said co-founder Rick Wetzel. “That meant everything we did from day one, from your numbering systems to the store design, everything was built so we could get to 1,000.”
And in case anyone could do it, it’s Rick and Elise, the dynamic Los Angeles duo behind Wetzel’s Pretzels who were both former brand managers at Nestle.
As the story goes, they wanted pizza to get a quick lunch, which just wasn’t available. Therefore they visited Chipotle instead for a burrito and got a hearty part of inspiration, too.
“Just watching that ordering format, we went, ‘Now which is how you would get pizza at lunch,’” said Elise. “That was the gaping hole. Literally we left that Chipotle and that i knew. I looked at Rick and said, ‘We’re likely to open blaze pizza opening hours aren’t we?’ He explained, ‘Yes we have been.’”
The 2 had been pondering their next act after selling Wetzel’s Pretzels to your private equity firm in 2007, with Wetzel’s again changing hands in 2016. However with that cash inside the bank and also the experience of growing to fsdlws than 300 locations, they knew they had to visit fast. Rick is the archetypal idea man who simply can’t sit still as the zen-like Elise charts the brand’s north star. They reached work before their burritos had even digested.
“We happened to become qualified to make a run at it, therefore we said, ‘Lets go,’” said Rick.
From the first conversation, they designed the company to develop with a rapid clip. “We knew it might be competitive and we knew it was going to go very, very fast. If someone would own the marketplace, they would need to move quickly and execute extremely, extremely well,” said Rick.
Keeping that growth from as being a chaotic mess, however, meant a young investment in people, systems, processes and other growth investments well ahead of the actual restaurant count. Mizes, a seasoned franchise executive, came on as CEO when there were just two restaurants. Executive chef Brad Kent was there before the first store opened this year, as was the store design team.