The 300-location mark is a fairly big deal in franchising; it’s a milestone that few concepts ever reach. Just 108 franchised brands have grown past the 300 mark. It was a nice milestone at Blaze, but when the company ticked over 300 in November 2018, CEO Jim Mizes didn’t spend a lot of time patting his back.
“I can be liable for not celebrating where we are, but really it’s what comes next within the evolution in the blaze pizza near me to get us from 300 to 700 or whatever is next,” said Mizes.
Founders Rick and Elise Wetzel built that growth mindset right in to the brand DNA. So even at 176 percent sales growth and 121 percent location growth from 2015 through 2017, it’s all part of the plan.
“We always said right from the start, let’s think and act like we’re a 1,000-restaurant organization,” said co-founder Rick Wetzel. “That meant everything we did from day one, from your numbering systems to the store design, everything was built so that we could easily get to one thousand.”
And in case anyone could practice it, it’s Rick and Elise, the dynamic Southern California duo behind Wetzel’s Pretzels who had been both former brand managers at Nestle.
Since the story goes, they wanted pizza for a quick lunch, which just wasn’t available. Therefore they went along to Chipotle instead for a burrito and got a hearty portion of inspiration, too.
“Just watching that ordering format, we went, ‘Now which is how you would get pizza at lunch,’” said Elise. “That was the gaping hole. Literally we left that Chipotle and that i knew. I checked out Rick and said, ‘We’re planning to open https://www.storeholidayhours.org/blaze-pizza-holiday-hours-open-closed-today/ aren’t we?’ He said, ‘Yes our company is.’”
The two had been pondering their next act after selling Wetzel’s Pretzels to some private equity firm in 2007, with Wetzel’s again changing hands in 2016. But with those funds inside the bank as well as the knowledge of growing to fsdlws than 300 locations, they knew that they had to go fast. Rick is the archetypal idea man who simply can’t sit still whilst the zen-like Elise charts the brand’s north star. They have got to work before their burritos had even digested.
“We happened to get qualified to create a run at it, so that we said, ‘Lets go,’” said Rick.
From the first conversation, they designed the brand to cultivate at a rapid clip. “We knew it will be competitive so we knew it was going to go very, very fast. If anyone was going to own the marketplace, they will have to move quickly and execute extremely, extremely well,” said Rick.
Keeping that growth from becoming a chaotic mess, however, meant an early investment in people, systems, processes along with other growth investments well ahead of the actual restaurant count. Mizes, an experienced franchise executive, came on as CEO when there were just two restaurants. Executive chef Brad Kent was there before the very first store opened in the year 2011, as was the shop design team.