The 300-location mark is a pretty big deal in franchising; it’s a milestone that few concepts ever reach. Just 108 franchised brands have grown beyond the 300 mark. It was a nice milestone at Blaze, however, when the company ticked over 300 in November 2018, CEO Jim Mizes didn’t spend a long time patting his back.
“I can be liable for not celebrating where we have been, but really it’s what comes next inside the evolution of the blaze pizza menu to obtain 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 portion of the plan.
“We always said from the beginning, 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 for the store design, everything was built so we could easily get to one thousand.”
And when anyone could get it done, it’s Rick and Elise, the dynamic Southern California duo behind Wetzel’s Pretzels who had been both former brand managers at Nestle.
As the story goes, they wanted pizza for any quick lunch, which just wasn’t available. Therefore they went along to Chipotle instead for a burrito and got a hearty percentage of inspiration, too.
“Just watching that ordering format, we went, ‘Now which is the way you would get pizza at lunch,’” said Elise. “That was the gaping hole. Literally we left that Chipotle and that i knew. I considered Rick and said, ‘We’re planning to open https://www.storeholidayhours.org/blaze-pizza-holiday-hours-open-closed-today/ aren’t we?’ He stated, ‘Yes our company is.’”
The two have 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. However with that money in the bank and the experience of growing to fsdlws than 300 locations, they knew they had to travel fast. Rick is the archetypal idea man who simply can’t sit still as 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 make a run at it, so we said, ‘Lets go,’” said Rick.
From the first conversation, they designed the manufacturer to grow with a rapid clip. “We knew it might be competitive and we knew it would go very, very fast. If anyone would own the marketplace, they would 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 and other growth investments well ahead of the actual restaurant count. Mizes, an experienced franchise executive, came on as CEO when there have been just two restaurants. Executive chef Brad Kent was there before the initial store opened this year, as was a store design team.