Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza announced it will open eight new restaurants in Southern California in the coming months.
Two restaurants are set to open in September in Culver City (Culver Crossroads Shopping Center) and La Canada (La Canada Flintridge Town Center), and six additional locations will be opening soon in Los Angeles (Farmers Market), Isla Vista (UC-Santa Barbara adjacent), Carlsbad (Carlsbad Premium Outlets), Mission Viejo (Shops at Mission Viejo), Cabazon (Desert Hills Premium Outlets), and Southgate (Azalea Shopping Center).
An additional 10 Los Angeles–area locations have been identified to open in 2014.
Buoyed by the success of its Irvine, Pasadena, and Torrance, California, restaurants, the company is partnering with select qualified franchisees to develop Blaze Pizza in markets across the country.
Today, Southern California is “sold out,” with 11 franchise groups committed to building 70 restaurants over the next five years.
In addition, Blaze Pizza has signed area development agreements with franchisees in 20 other markets, including New York City; Chicago; Miami; Washington, D.C.; Detroit; Milwaukee; Indianapolis; Houston; and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Including the new Southern California locations, the company expects to have 25 restaurants operating by the end of March 2014.
“It started with the simple idea of making a great artisanal pizza—custom built-to-order and served freakishly fast—for about $7,” says Elise Wetzel, cofounder of Blaze Pizza. “Our inspiration grew out of frustration when we couldn’t find a good fast pizza for lunch. We knew that if we could execute on this simple idea, we could sell a lot of pizza.”
Elise and her husband, Rick Wetzel (cofounders of Wetzel’s Pretzels), collaborated with executive chef Brad Kent to create a signature “light-as-air crispy crust” that could be pressed fresh for each guest.
The trio then designed an interactive assembly-line format, where guests could customize their own pizzas with fresh-made sauces, hand-selected veggies, and a variety of artisanal meats and cheeses.
To create Blaze’s “casually hip” store design, the team brought in Ana Henton of MASS Architecture. Henton adds individualized design notes to each new restaurant space, making each location as custom-built as the pizzas it serves.
From a simple idea now brought to life, Blaze Pizza has become a budding restaurant chain, where individual locations can serve upward of 800 to 1,000 built-to-order artisanal pizzas on a busy day.
“The trends behind the booming fast-casual restaurant segment—better quality, customization, and premium environment—are also driving Blaze Pizza’s popularity and rapid expansion,” says Rick Fortman, former executive vice president of operations at Carl’s Jr and now a franchise partner developing nine Blaze Pizza restaurants in the Inland Empire. “Pizza is already a huge category but, if you think about it, there really isn’t an option for a good fast pizza. The upside is enormous.”