Back in 2011, Rick and Elise Wetzel—cofounders of the successful snack chain Wetzel’s Pretzels—were looking for a quick lunch spot for a business meeting, craving pizza in particular. But when they realized that their only options were greasy spoons with reheated slices, the pair chose to hold the meeting at Chipotle instead.
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Elise Wetzel says she and Rick watched as the lunch crowd moved through Chipotle’s assembly line, and the “a-ha moment” struck: This could work for pizza, they thought. They grabbed a napkin and sketched out how it might work.
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“Sometimes an idea bites you,” she says. “This was one where I remember us leaving that lunch and saying, ‘We're going to open a pizza place, aren't we?’ And we looked at each other said, ‘Yeah, we're going to do this.’”
They did it and then some; Blaze Pizza now boasts more than 300 locations across the U.S. and counts high-profile personalities like Maria Shriver, Boston Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner, and basketball superstar LeBron James as investors.
In our first-ever episode of “Fast Forward,” the Wetzels explain how they took Blaze from an idea to a fast-casual juggernaut—and how they pace ahead of the increasingly crowded competition.