Blaze Pizza announced Wednesday that former Focus Brands executive Beto Guajardo was appointed as new CEO. 

At Focus Brands—owner of Schlotzsky’s, Moe’s, Auntie Anne’s, Cinnabon, Jamba, McAlister’s, and Carvel—the industry veteran served as international president since April 2020. While at the helm, he oversaw more than $400 million in sales in 50-plus markets with 1,900 restaurants and 100 franchisees. Prior to Focus, Guajardo worked as president of Schlotzsky’s and senior vice president of global strategy for Starbucks. 

“I am incredibly energized and honored to be joining the Blaze Pizza team,” Guajardo said in a statement. “This is an exciting time for the brand, and I’m eager to continue the initiatives underway to enhance restaurant excellence and provide value for our franchisees and customers. We have significant opportunities ahead, and I look forward to working with the team to accelerate our next phase of growth.”

The industry veteran is replacing Mandy Shaw, who led the pizza chain for nearly five years, but left in November. In a LinkedIn post, Shaw acknowledged her departure, saying “After five wild and fulfilling years at Blaze, I am moving on to my next journey.” 

“I’m bringing with me different life perspectives from having moved across the country as a single mom, a deep respect and appreciation for the Blazer team and franchisees that will continue to inspire me, and a desire to reconnect with my family more frequently after years of separation,” Shaw said in the post. “I’ve just returned from a full week in Key West with my kids, my dad, my brother and my [sister-in-law] … the first time we’ve all been together in over four years. And so, my heart is full!”

At more than 330 locations, Blaze is one of the largest pizza fast casuals in the country and was once labeled  “America’s fastest-growing chain ever.” The brand added a net of 18 restaurants between 2019 and 2021, despite COVID obstacles. In October, the chain announced a 10-unit deal to grow in Dallas-Forth Worth and a three-store agreement in Prince George County outside of Washington, D.C. In 2022, the brand also promoted Ed Yancey from vice president of franchise development to chief development officer.

Blaze is based in 38 states and six countries, and the chain will look to grow further under Guajardo’s watch. 

“On behalf of the Brentwood team, we are excited to start the new year with Beto at the helm,” said Rahul Aggarwal, partner at Brentwood Associates, which owns a significant stake in the chain, said in a statement. “Blaze is an important brand in our portfolio, and Beto has extensive executive level experience leading global restaurant brands and building high performing teams. I am confident that he has the experience and strategic vision to lead Blaze, its franchisees and employees to achieve new levels of success in the future.”

Employee Management, Fast Casual, Franchising, Growth, Story, Blaze Pizza