Fuller Plate: Blaze Pizza CEO Jim Mizes.

Fuller Plate: Blaze Pizza CEO Jim Mizes. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

Blaze Pizza’s revenue is on fire.

The Pasadena-based company is one of the fastest-growing fast-casual, make-your-own pizza companies in the United States, and continues to be one of the fastest-growing private companies in Los Angeles, according to new sales figures provided by the chain.

Blaze, founded in 2012, projects that its stores – 200 locations and growing in the United States and Canada – will generate $285 million in sales this year, an increase of more than 54 percent from 2016 when revenue was $185 million.

A good chunk of the growth has come from 70 locations opened over the last year or so. Sales for locations open at least 18 months showed a 2.1 percent increase last year.

Chief Executive Jim Mizes declined to provide net income, saying only that it has been positive since 2015.

“We’re no longer an emerging brand,” Mizes said. “We are a high-growth brand.”

The co-founders, who also started mall staple Wetzel’s Pretzels, have steered Blaze to the top of the list of companies that have capitalized on the concept of individual artisan pizza made in a few minutes.

The strong performance of the chain’s individual stores – the best in the segment, according to Blaze – has attracted best-in-class franchisees who have fed the company’s growth, said Darren Tristano, president of Chicago-based restaurant research firm Technomic.

“All indications show that Blaze will be the largest in 2017” in the make-your-own category, Tristano said.

Blaze’s biggest competitor – Bellevue, Wash.-based Mod Super Fast Pizza Holdings, saw same-store sales grow faster last year at 5.3 percent. Mod’s physical footprint, at 232 stores, is bigger as well.

Yet Mod’s total revenue of $152 million for the year ended Dec. 25 fell short of Blaze’s $185 million last year – an indicator of higher per-store sales, which could be a key in attracting franchisees.

A spokeswoman at Mod wouldn’t comment last week, and four other competitors couldn’t be reached or declined to comment.

Raising dough

The idea for Blaze came to husband-and-wife co-founders Rick and Elise Wetzel while they were having lunch at a Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. restaurant.

“As we were sitting there, after walking the line with our meal, we looked up and said there’s no reason why this wouldn’t work for pizza,” Elise Wetzel, the chain’s chief brand officer, told the Business Journal in 2015.

The experience of eating at Blaze, whose stores have industrial décor with accents of reddish orange, appeals to customers, said Janet Lowder, founder of Restaurant Management Services in Rancho Palos Verdes.

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