The fast-casual pizza franchise Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint continues expanding across the country with the with the recent signing of a five-unit franchise development agreement for Southeast Alabama. The chain was founded by Matt Andrew, former president and co-founder of Moe’s Southwest Grill.

Led by owner operator Michael DiChiara and several partners, including Auburn University graduates and Auburn, Alabama, residents Ernest Lee, Jr. and Clint Wilson, along with Troy, Alabama, native Will Hudson, the new Uncle Maddio’s franchisees bring a combination of restaurant, legal, real estate, and construction experience. Hudson is a multi-unit owner of restaurants in Alabama, while Lee‘s company Colvin Evans Construction is building their five Uncle Maddio’s units. The first of five locations is set to open early in the first quarter of 2014 in the new Heart of Auburn complex on Auburn University’s campus.

“Americans are embracing the newest concept in fast casual dining: homemade pizza custom made just for you and ready to eat in under seven minutes,” Andrew says. “Though imitators are entering the market, our customers and franchisees are choosing the original. Every day, we are fielding more and more calls from prospective franchisees around the country.”

In addition to Montgomery and Auburn, Uncle Maddio’s will be expanding into 11 new markets including Dallas; Austin, Texas; Jonesboro, Arkansas; Mobile, Alabama; Birmingham, Alabama; Columbus, Georgia; Canton, Georgia; Jacksonville, Florida; Virginia Beach and Ashburn, Virginia; and Fargo, North Dakota.

The chain has attracted multi-unit franchise operators, including current and former operators of chains such as Moe’s Southwest Grill, Papa John’s Pizza, Jimmy John’s, Arby’s, Subway, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Firehouse Subs, Tin Drum Asia Cafe, Marble Slab Creamery, Golden Corral, Penn Station Subs, Great Wraps, and Qdoba Mexican Grill.

Launched in Atlanta in 2008, Uncle Maddio’s operates 18 restaurants with 11 new units opened this year, and 35 units anticipated to open in 2014. Uncle Maddio’s now has 165 restaurants in development, including numerous franchisees opening their second and third locations.

“The fact that our franchisees are rapidly building out multiple locations is the highest praise,” Andrew says. “This is a concept that delivers on its promise and provides customers with a wholly unique dining experience.”

Uncle Maddio’s makes its own dough, sauce, meatballs, and salad dressings. With more than 5 million pizza options, customers can choose from three dough choices, including a gluten-free option, six different sauces, and more than 50 toppings, with vegan and organic selections available. Every pizza is baked in less than 7 minutes and start at $6.99.

“We spent several months researching the build-your-own pizza concept that Uncle Maddio’s pioneered,” says Michael DiChiara of the Southeast Alabama franchisee. “The pizza is second to none, utilizing the highest quality ingredients, and the strength of the brand catapults Uncle Maddio’s above all competitors. Matt and his team have the experience and leadership skills for ultimate success. They have created a truly original concept that is operationally sound and profitable. A homerun for any prospective franchisee.”

Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, News, Pizza, Uncle Maddio's