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 too much 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 from the https://www.blazepizza.com/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 part of the plan.
“We always said right from the start, 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 the numbering systems for the store design, everything was built so we could get to 1,000.”
And when anyone could do it, it’s Rick and Elise, the dynamic Los Angeles duo behind Wetzel’s Pretzels who had been both former brand managers at Nestle.
As the story goes, they wanted pizza for a quick lunch, which just wasn’t available. So they went along to Chipotle instead to get a burrito and got a hearty percentage 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 considered Rick and said, ‘We’re planning to open https://www.blazepizza.com/ aren’t we?’ He said, ‘Yes we are.’”
Both 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. But with those funds within the bank as well as the experience of growing to fsdlws than 300 locations, they knew they had to travel fast. Rick will be the archetypal idea man who simply can’t sit still while 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 create a run at it, so that we said, ‘Lets go,’” said Rick.
From the first conversation, they designed the manufacturer to grow at a rapid clip. “We knew it would be competitive and that we knew it was going to go very, very fast. If anyone was going to own the market, 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 and other growth investments well ahead of the actual restaurant count. Mizes, a seasoned franchise executive, came on as CEO when there was 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.