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oath craft pizza

Oath Craft Pizza sets sights on expansion

With new funding, pizza chain adds markets, and maybe new outlets

Oath Craft Pizza isn’t just looking outside of its home area of Boston for potential expansion.

It might even look outside the restaurant industry entirely.

The fast-casual pizza chain, armed with another $7 million in investment funds, is looking to open its first location outside of the Boston area, near Washington DC in Fairfax County, Va.

The chain now has its eyes on more Boston locations, including one near Fenway Park and another near MIT, as well as other locations in the Mid-Atlantic States, such as New York and Philadelphia.

“We have our sights set on, call it six to eight locations,” CEO Patrik Hellstrand said in an interview.

“We planned on doing a few more. But we’re very disciplined about our real estate site selection. Part of the reason in some cases is the economics of the deal.

“In others, we simply weren’t convinced our guests were in those areas.”

Oath Craft was founded in 2015 by Doug Ferriman, a pizza chef who created a unique style of crust that is grilled in avocado oil and then shipped to the restaurants, where it is toasted with toppings.

Breakaway, a Boston-based venture capital firm, helped develop the brand, has now led three funding rounds totaling $16 million. Hellstrand was named CEO of the chain last year. 

“Since the beginnings of Oath in 2015, our goal has been to transform fast casual through great food coupled with a unique business model applying small footprint, multi-format approach,” John Burns, Oath’s chairman and Breakaway’s CEO, said in a statement. “We have made great progress and since Patrik’s joining us late last year, we are now materially accelerating under his leadership.”

The latest round of funding will help Oath Craft continue to ramp up growth.

“We’re very lucky to have a financing partner invested in us that understands what we’re trying to do,” Hellstrand said. “They were part of creating the initial brand for the business and helping it launch and scale. They are an ongoing strategic partner in terms of strategic connections and relationships.”

Oath Craft’s continued growth could include something unique in the fast-casual space: Sales of the crust at retail. 

Because of the way it is prepared, offsite and then finished in the restaurant, Oath Craft believes it could be sold at grocers. Hellstrand said the chain is exploring license deals to sell the company’s crust at retail. 

“Our crust, because of its unique characteristics, it toasts extraordinarily well,” Hellstrand said. “Even if you bring it home, you get an amazing result out of it.” 

Hellstrand said the company’s crust makes it more unique than many of its competitors in the fast-casual pizza space, a space that continues to grow even as chains like Pie Five have faltered more recently.

“We’re not saying we’re the best pizza in the world,” Hellstrand said. “There’s some amazing traditional artisan pizza being made by restaurateurs. But we’re not huge fans of stamping a dough ball and running it through an impingement oven.

“We take a different step and do twice the amount of work. By baking the product separately and bringing it into the store and toasting it, we can achieve a level of crispness that we couldn’t achieve in store.”

The company is targeting customers it believes are looking for “better food options” and suggests its competitors aren’t just other pizza chains but are instead concepts like Sweetgreen and Cava Grill.

Earlier this month, Oath Craft became the first pizza chain to have some of its toppings labeled “certified humane” by the Humane Farm Animal Care program.

“In general, we’re very serious about the integrity of the food,” Hellstrand said. “There’s a consumer looking for that food that doesn’t make you feel guilty. That’s the consumer we’re targeting.”

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter at @jonathanmaze

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