mod blaze

MOD, Blaze emerge as fast-casual pizza leaders

Both chains report more than $270 million in sales

In the crowded fast-casual pizza space, two chains appear to have emerged as dominant leaders; both MOD Pizza and Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza recently reported systemwide sales in excess of $270 million for the 2017 fiscal year. 

Seattle-based MOD Pizza, the older of the two, founded in 2008 by Scott and Ally Svenson, on Tuesday reported sales of $275 million for 2017, up by 81 percent over the previous year, and the opening of 110 restaurants, giving them a total of 302. They reported an increase in same-store sales of 5.2 percent.

Blaze, founded in 2012 in Irvine, Calif., by another husband-and-wife team, Wetzel’s Pretzels co-founders Elise and Rick Wetzel, on Feb. 27 reported a 51 percent increase in sales to $279 million from 252 restaurants in fiscal 2017. Same-store sales were up by 3.6 percent.

Blaze Pizza

So Blaze remains larger in terms of sales, by around 1.4 percent, while MOD now has 17 percent more restaurants.

MOD Pizza CEO Scott Svenson credited his chain’s growth, in part, to community involvement.

“We accomplished this during a difficult period for the broader restaurant industry, and we believe our remarkable growth was enabled, in significant part, by our continued commitment to make a positive social impact,” he said in a press release, adding that in 2017 the company contributed more than $1 million to support local communities and employees in need. 

Additionally, MOD said its franchisees donated more than $364,000 to hunger relief organization Generosity Feeds.

Jim Stephenson

Both chains reported significant outside investment. Blaze said in a press release that it received “a significant non-controlling investment” from private equity firm Brentwood Associates. 

“Concurrent with the transaction, Bill Barnum, Rahul Aggarwal and restaurant industry veteran Greg Dollarhyde joined its board of directors,” it said.

Barnum is a co-founder, partner and managing member of Brentwood. Aggarwal is also a partner in the firm.

Dollarhyde is the former CEO of Veggie Grill and Zoë’s Kitchen and reportedly joined Brentwood in investing in Blaze.

Brentwood also was a previous investor in Zoë’s Kitchen.

MOD, meanwhile, said it raised $33 million in equity and a $40 million credit facility in 2017. It said it had expanded into seven new states: Indiana, Montana, Utah, Delaware, Florida, Nevada and Georgia.

Blaze on the other hand, announced its entry into the Middle East by signing an agreement with M. H. Alshaya Co. to develop 100 restaurants in 11 countries in the region.

“We spent our first five years in business refining our restaurant model and building out the infrastructure and franchise network to support our rapid growth,” Blaze CEO Jim Mizes said in the earnings release. “Today, we have the people, processes and systems in place to achieve our goal of becoming a billion-dollar brand by our tenth birthday.”

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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