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 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 long time patting his back.
“I can be guilty of not celebrating where we have been, but really it’s what comes next inside the evolution of the blaze pizza menu with prices 2020 to get us from 300 to 700 or whatever is next,” said Mizes.
Founders Rick and Elise Wetzel built that growth mindset right to the brand DNA. So even at 176 percent sales growth and 121 percent location growth from 2015 through 2017, it’s all area of the plan.
“We always said right away, 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, through the numbering systems towards the store design, everything was built so that we might get to one thousand.”
And if anyone could do it, it’s Rick and Elise, the dynamic Los Angeles duo behind Wetzel’s Pretzels who have been both former brand managers at Nestle.
Since 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 portion of inspiration, too.
“Just watching that ordering format, we went, ‘Now that is certainly how you will would get pizza at lunch,’” said Elise. “That was the gaping hole. Literally we left that Chipotle and i also knew. I looked at Rick and said, ‘We’re planning to open blaze pizza opening hours aren’t we?’ He stated, ‘Yes our company is.’”
Both had been pondering their next act after selling Wetzel’s Pretzels to your private equity firm in 2007, with Wetzel’s again changing hands in 2016. But with those funds within the bank as well as the experience of growing to fsdlws than 300 locations, they knew that they had to visit fast. Rick will be the archetypal idea man who simply can’t sit still as the zen-like Elise charts the brand’s north star. They got to work before their burritos had even digested.
“We happened to be qualified to produce 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 was going to go very, very fast. If someone was going to own the market, they would have to move quickly and execute extremely, extremely well,” said Rick.
Keeping that growth from being a chaotic mess, however, meant a young investment in people, systems, processes along with other growth investments well in front of the actual restaurant count. Mizes, a skilled franchise executive, came on as CEO when there was just two restaurants. Executive chef Brad Kent was there before the initial store opened in 2011, as was the store design team.