Four-unit, Boston-based Oath Craft Pizza said Tuesday it closed a $4.5 million, Series A funding round led by investment firm Breakaway. The fast-casual pizza chain has raised a total of $9 million in two funding rounds since its inception — and it opened its first unit only last year.
Boston-based Breakaway appears so confident about the startup concept that this latest round, which includes a handful of other investors, is the second time in less than two years the firm has invested in the brand. The latest round of funding will help Oath Craft Pizza develop the infrastructure to help it grow, the firm said, while Breakaway will help the company with branding.
The chain plans to add locations in Boston, but is also targeting “rapid expansion” into new geographic areas like New York and Washington D.C.
Oath Craft Pizza was started by Doug Ferriman, a pizza chef who created a unique style of crust that is grilled on one side and then flash seared with olive oil on the other. That crust was used as the base for the concept. The crusts are premade, which enables the company to make the pizzas in 90 seconds.
“Our product is so unique and so different,” said Rick Wolf, the chain’s president and chief operating officer, and himself a veteran of the pizza industry. “It’s amazing. I’ve never had anything like it.”
The ability to make pizzas in 90 seconds helps the brand compete with the latest generation of fast-casual concepts that have been dotting the restaurant landscape in recent years.
While Oath Craft Pizza has build-your-own options, three quarters of the orders are for craft pizzas on the chain’s menu, which includes items like the Spicy Mother Clucker: mozzarella, rosé pickled red onions, Sriracha chicken, Sriracha sauce, an “Oath Secret Sauce” and scallions.
It also has breakfast pizzas, such as the Hen & Hog: mozzarella, egg white, sausage, green pepper, sweet red pepper and Sriracha.
“We strive to push the envelope, to take things to the next level,” Wolf said.
The uniqueness of its model also enables the company to fit into a wide variety of spaces. Its first four units include a small, 450-square-foot location in Nantucket. Another is a kiosk location. It has two “traditional” restaurant locations with seating.
“The type of ovens we use are stackable, so you can put three ovens on top of one another,” Wolf said. That helps it use space more efficiently and enables its flexible footprint design.
Wolf also said the company has a different labor model. Because crusts are premade, workers don’t have to press the dough and training can focus on performance. “We hire for personality,” he said. “We don’t have to worry about a skillset like pressing dough. We’ve taken away the complexities. So it’s more about being artistic, putting the ingredients on and making sure the pizza looks great.”
“We call it Fast Casual Pizza 2.0, for lack of a better term,” he added.
The chain’s $9 million in venture funding is part of a broader industry trend in which early-stage investors are putting money into startup restaurant chains — much like they’d fund startup technology or manufacturing firms.
Ferriman, a championship pizza chef, developed his crust recipe and then approached Breakaway for early stage funding. The Nantucket location, the chain’s first, opened only in May of last year.
Breakaway is a branding and venture capital firm that “invents, reinvents and reinvigorates brands,” according to the firm’s description.
“We are excited about the opportunity to create a brand that stands for something and that innovates the world of fast casual, not just pizza, by applying new technologies and embracing smaller footprints than traditional operators,” John Burns, chairman of Oath and president of Breakaway, said in a statement. “This investment is a reflection of our commitment to a company that is pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the restaurant industry as a whole.”
The second funding round includes others, too: Joe O’Donnell, chairman of the board with Centerplate; Stephen Karp, the CEO at New England Development; and Ben Fischman, founder of the retail concept Rue La La. As part of the deal, Len Schlesinger, former president of Babson College and the former chief operator at Au Bon Pain, will join Oath Craft Pizza’s board.
Correction: Sept. 16, 2016 An earlier version of this story misstated the name of Breakaway, the venture capital firm.