Since its inception, Blaze Pizza has disrupted the fast-casual industry with a myriad of consumer awards, innovative menu items and incredible growth. Now, following its recent successes, the famed fast-casual concept is bringing fresh additions to its executive team.
Blaze Pizza is welcoming Vince Szwajkowski as Chief Marketing Officer and Rick Gestring as Chief Restaurant Officer. The announcement comes just months after Blaze Pizza added Marie Zhang as Chief Supply Chain Officer and Ed Yancey as Vice President of Franchise Development to its corporate team.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be adding world class marketing and operations leaders to the Blaze executive team,” says Mandy Shaw, Blaze Pizza CEO. “Both Vince and Rick have extensive experience in building culturally relevant brands and evolving the guest journey. I’m confident that they will be pivotal in taking us into the next stages of growth.”
As Chief Marketing Officer, Szwajkowski is responsible for the development, planning and execution of all digital, marketing and brand strategy. Working closely with operations, culinary and restaurant design, he will strengthen the 360-degree customer journey across physical and digital platforms. Likewise, Szwajkowski will deepen Blaze Pizza’s lifestyle brand image, positioning it at the forefront of fast casual dining through strategic innovation.
Szwajkowski brings executive leadership to Blaze having worked on iconic brands such as ArcLight Cinemas and Hilton. Among his accomplishments, he built and launched the new ArcLight brand platform, aiming to disrupt the movie theatre industry by reengaging ArcLight’s existing customers and attracting new ones through innovative programming, partnerships, and F&B offerings. At Hilton, Szwajkowski concepted and led the global hospitality brand Motto by Hilton, creating an entirely new category of lifestyle hotels for Next Generation travelers. Previously in his tenure at Hilton he built and led the Global Brand Strategy team, where he was responsible for identifying and strategically filling gaps within the portfolio including new brand creation and global brand expansion.
“Blaze has built its reputation on disrupting the pizza space through its unique customer-centric concept and devoted following,” adds Szwajkowski. “The brand is driven by stellar leadership and engaged franchisees and I am thrilled to join Mandy and the unbelievably talented team she has assembled as we grow and accelerate Blaze as an innovative lifestyle brand.”
A seasoned industry executive, Gestring joins Blaze Pizza to oversee restaurant operations and innovation, across both corporate and franchise, to drive extensive and sustainable growth. With the guest experience in mind, he is providing leadership, management and vision, while ensuring effective and efficient operational and financial procedures are in place across the system.
Before Blaze Pizza, Gestring was at Dunkin’ Brands, leading all aspects of operation systems and guest experience in over 8,500 locations. He was also one of the engineers behind the revamped guest experience and brand relaunch for Arby’s at 1,200 company and over 2,200 franchise locations.
“Culture is so important to me, and at Blaze, culture and purpose is at the core of everything we do,” says Gestring. “I’m inspired by the people behind the pizza, and the journey we are embarking on together with our guests and franchisees. When it comes to restaurant operations, we have an opportunity to take Blaze to the next level, while continuing to tell our story pragmatically and purposefully.”