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, 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 guilty of not celebrating where our company is, but really it’s what comes next inside the evolution of the blaze pizza menu 2020 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 area of the plan.
“We always said right away, let’s think and act like we’re a one thousand-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 therefore we could get to 1,000.”
And when anyone could do 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 any quick lunch, which just wasn’t available. So they visited Chipotle instead for any burrito and got a hearty percentage of inspiration, too.
“Just watching that ordering format, we went, ‘Now that is certainly how you would get pizza at lunch,’” said Elise. “That was the gaping hole. Literally we left that Chipotle and i also knew. I considered Rick and said, ‘We’re likely to open what time does blaze pizza close aren’t we?’ He stated, ‘Yes our company is.’”
Both 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. Though with that cash in the bank as well as the experience with growing to fsdlws than 300 locations, they knew they had to visit 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 be qualified to make a run at it, so we said, ‘Lets go,’” said Rick.
Through the first conversation, they designed the company to grow at a rapid clip. “We knew it will be competitive so we knew it would go very, very fast. If someone was going to 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 along with other growth investments well ahead of the actual restaurant count. Mizes, a skilled franchise executive, came on as CEO when there have been just two restaurants. Executive chef Brad Kent was there before the very first store opened this year, as was the store design team.