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.
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.
“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.
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