Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza, a leader in the fast-casual build-your-own pizza category, announced that Walch Hospitality Group, led by John Walch, has signed an agreement to develop six franchise stores in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin.

The new Wisconsin stores are part of a development plan to build a concentration of Blaze Pizza restaurants in the Midwest that will include the neighboring states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.

The first Wisconsin location is scheduled to open in Milwaukee this summer in a location that has not yet been announced.

“The stores in Wisconsin will be a tent-pole in our expansion throughout the Midwest,” says Elise Wetzel, president of Blaze Pizza. “We’ve had strong interest from franchise candidates in this part of the country and are currently working to identify the best development partners for the brand.”

As president of Walch Hospitality Group, Walch brings more than 22 years of restaurant experience to the venture. Most recently, Walch served as president and operating partner of Carlon Company, an operator of 25 Panera Bread franchise stores in Wisconsin and Illinois that were acquired by the franchisor in 2011.

Walch Hospitality Group is the third 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.

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 light-as-air, 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, Growth, News, Pizza, Blaze Pizza