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 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 with prices 2020 to obtain 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 portion 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, from your numbering systems to the store design, everything was built therefore we could easily get to one thousand.”
And if anyone could practice it, it’s Rick and Elise, the dynamic Southern California duo behind Wetzel’s Pretzels who were both former brand managers at Nestle.
Because the story goes, they wanted pizza for a quick lunch, which just wasn’t available. So that they went to Chipotle instead for any burrito and got a hearty part of inspiration, too.
“Just watching that ordering format, we went, ‘Now that is how you would get pizza at lunch,’” said Elise. “That was the gaping hole. Literally we left that Chipotle and I knew. I looked at Rick and said, ‘We’re planning to open https://www.blazepizza.com/ aren’t we?’ He said, ‘Yes our company is.’”
The 2 was pondering their next act after selling Wetzel’s Pretzels to your private equity firm in 2007, with Wetzel’s again changing hands in 2016. However with that money within the bank and the experience of growing to fsdlws than 300 locations, they knew that they had to travel 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 make a run at it, therefore we said, ‘Lets go,’” said Rick.
From the first conversation, they designed the company to cultivate at a rapid clip. “We knew it will be competitive and we knew it would go very, very fast. If anyone was going to own the current market, they would have to move quickly and execute extremely, extremely well,” said Rick.
Keeping that growth from becoming a chaotic mess, however, meant an earlier investment in people, systems, processes and other growth investments well ahead of the actual restaurant count. Mizes, a skilled franchise executive, came on as CEO when there were just two restaurants. Executive chef Brad Kent was there before the initial store opened in the year 2011, as was the store design team.