Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza, a leader in the fast-casual, build-your-own-pizza category, announced that Lessing’s Hospitality Group, one of New York’s leading restaurant and catering companies, has signed an agreement to develop 10 franchise stores in the New York Metro area, Long Island, Westchester, and Rockland counties, as well as in southern Connecticut.

This most recent agreement brings Blaze Pizza’s total number of franchise stores under development to 24 locations, with several planned to open this spring.

This new commitment will allow Blaze Pizza to make its debut in two new states, further expanding its growing national footprint.

“We believe that Blaze Pizza is well positioned to capture the leadership position in the rapidly emerging build-your-own-pizza category,” says Michael Lessing, COO of Lessing’s. “It’s very exciting to be involved in the rollout of a young, well-developed concept, and we know that they value our experience and input.”

Mark Lessing, executive vice president restaurants & franchising for Lessing's, adds, "We believe that this delicious, handmade, artisanal pizza will do very well in the New York area among all generations seeking a fast-casual pizza for lunch or dinner."  

A sixth-generation, family-owned and operated foodservice business, Lessing’s was the first company to serve Coca-Cola in Manhattan.

Lessing’s full-service restaurants include four-star Mirabelle, the waterfront View Restaurant, and trademark “Main Street” locations including Post Office Café, Maxwell’s, Library Café, and Finnegan’s.

“The addition of stores in New York and Connecticut will really help in our plans to build Blaze Pizza into a national brand,” says Elise Wetzel, president of Blaze Pizza. “We are very pleased to welcome Lessing’s to our growing Blaze Pizza family.”

The New York and Connecticut stores will be part of a plan to build a concentration of Blaze Pizza restaurants in the Northeast, including New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C.

Lessing’s Hospitality Group is the fourth area developer in Blaze Pizza’s growing franchise network. Blaze Pizza is on track to have 20 area developers under contract by the end of 2013.

The first New York restaurant is scheduled to open in Long Island this summer in a location that has not yet been announced.

Blaze Pizza uses an assembly line format to create artisan pizzas for only $6.85. Each Blaze Pizza restaurant makes its own dough from scratch using a recipe that requires a 24-hour fermentation period to produce its signature crisp crust. 

Guests watch as each dough ball is pressed into an 11-inch crust. Next, they travel down the assembly line to “co-create” a signature pizza or design one of their own, with more than 40 artisanal toppings to choose from. 

Pizzas are “fast-fire’d” in a blazing-hot oven and ready in 120 seconds. Blaze Pizza’s menu also features signature salads, fresh lemonades, craft beer and wine, and house-made S’more Pies. 

For pizza fans with specific dietary needs, Blaze Pizza offers gluten-free dough and vegan cheese.

Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Fast Casual, Growth, News, Pizza, Blaze Pizza