PizzaRev has named Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. its first franchisee as it launched a franchising program this week.
The franchise relationship is not typical, given that Buffalo Wild Wings holds a minority stake in the Los Angeles-based fast-casual pizza chain. Buffalo Wild Wings also operates and franchises more than 930 namesake casual-dining restaurants.
Buffalo Wild Wings plans to open an undisclosed number of PizzaRev units around its home base of Minneapolis, with the first scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2014.
“It shows their faith in the brand,” PizzaRev co-owner and co-chief executive Rodney Eckerman said.
Additionally, PizzaRev has hired Mark Lyso to serve as its vice president of franchise development. He was formerly director of franchise development for Sizzler USA.
PizzaRev has filed to franchise across the U.S., with the goal of working with established multi-unit franchise operators with “experience, capital to commit and, most importantly, passion for the brand and the market segment,” Eckerman said.
Restaurant footprints range from 2,000 to 3,000 square feet, though the format is flexible, Eckerman said. He declined to provide build-out costs.
Early corporate units were located in in-line centers, but the concept has opened more recently in end-cap locations. The company favors locations with co-tenants within the fast-casual space, such as Chipotle Mexican Grill or “better burger” brands, Eckerman said.
“As the brand has gained traction, we’ve been able to secure better and better spots,” he said.
While PizzaRev is moving into franchising, corporate growth will also continue at a steady pace. The company aims to build the brand with a “you win/we win model,” Eckerman said.
This week the chain opened its fifth company-owned location in Oxnard, Calif. Seven more company units are in development throughout Southern California, including Burbank, Van Nuys, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Westlake Village, Los Angeles and Bakersfield. The company is not openly claiming specific territories, Eckerman said.
PizzaRev was founded in 2012 by Eckerman and Irv Zuckerman, two former Clear Channel executives, along with their sons Nicholas Eckerman and Jeff Zuckerman.
The brand is known for its 11-inch Roman-style pizzas with a thin, crispy crust. Guests walk a service line and choose their own toppings. The pizzas are baked in two to three minutes in an open-flame Wood Stone oven.
The concept is among a growing number of fast-casual pizza players that are franchising, including Pasadena, Calif.-based Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza and Los Angeles-based Pizza Studio. Blaze said last month that it had reached 20 franchise groups and a total of 172 units. Pizza Studio has 74 franchise locations under development.