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Brian Booth went from opening five restaurants to 10, due to popular demand.

Pizza franchisee on bringing Blaze Pizza to the Las Vegas market

Brian Booth is a 10-unit Las Vegas-based Blaze Pizza franchisee that ‘took a leap of faith’ with the brand by doubling his initial franchise store agreement

If founders, chefs and other creatives are the beating heart of the restaurant industry, then franchisees are the veins delivering their ideas to all corners of the globe. Franchising is critical to the success of the industry, allowing brands to quickly scale their big ideas using other people’s capital. And whether it’s a mom-and-pop restaurant owner with one or two franchised restaurants or a seasoned veteran whose influence in the industry is well-known, franchisees — with all their individual attributes, styles and personalities — make a huge impact on the success of a business.

In this week’s installment of Franchisee Spotlight, we spoke with Brian Booth, a longtime restaurant industry worker who began his franchising journey with Blaze Pizza 10 years ago, about building up a culinary community in the Vegas area.

Store count:

10 Blaze Pizza locations in the Las Vegas area

Career background

I've been in the restaurant business for about 30 years now—I started when I was in high school at about 15 years old, and quickly moved up into management positions at an early age. The transition into franchising happened later in life after I took a break for a little bit. I worked in downtown Chicago as a trader at the Chicago Board of Trade, and, and went through the whole market downturn in 2008 that lasted several years. Then in 2010, I met with my future business partner who was looking for something new to do at the same time as I was.

His Blaze Pizza journey

I had never been [to a Blaze Pizza] before, but my partner had heard about it through a franchise magazine and sent me down to one of the locations in downtown Chicago where I lived. I knew that it was an upcoming brand that had a lot of great backing behind it. From my very first visit I was hooked, so the following weekend, me and my wife, and him and his wife went out in Chicago and got Blaze together as a group. He set up a meeting in Pasadena for us to meet the owners of the company in 2011 or 2012, and it all happened very quickly. We didn't end up signing an agreement until 2014. Then in May 2015, we opened our first restaurant in Las Vegas.

Why Blaze Pizza

I was really drawn to the [Wetzel family’s] excitement and enthusiasm over taking on something that's changing the way that people order pizza… The franchise plan was already written out where we know exactly what everyone is supposed to be doing, we know what the overall ethos of the brand is, and we know what the what the guest is supposed to feel when they enter the restaurant…. I really loved the fact that they, they wanted it to be an experience. So it's not fine dining, and it’s not full-service, but it’s also not fast-food.

Choosing Las Vegas

We partnered up with a local real estate agent that had his finger on the pulse of the market here and got us really good opportunities to build in the community. Most people experience the strip in Las Vegas, and then you go to the airport and go back home. But there are pockets all around the valley, and it’s becoming a town that people are going to come and raise their families in, in Henderson in Summerlin, in North Las Vegas and even in Las Vegas proper.

He chose the most densely populated areas, knowing that we were going to go try to spread out around the valley because it's really not a big place… and drive-thru concepts are very popular in Las Vegas, because it's either feels like it's 110 degrees or it's 42 degrees in Las Vegas, and a lot of people love the convenience of a drive-thru. We wanted to pull people from the drive-thru concept and give them a reason to come in and have an experience along with a great food.

Growing from five stores to 10

We signed a franchise agreement and I moved my family from Illinois out to Las Vegas to start what was supposed to be a five-store deal, and wound up being a 10 store deal in short order because of the popularity and success of the brand….we came out of the chute so fast with our first three restaurants that by the time the third one was opening and open and operating, we had landlords calling not only our agent but also corporate headquarters in Pasadena saying we'd love to have a Blaze in our in our area. And Blaze called us and said, “we think that this could possibly be a 10-store market.”

At that point we weren't really sure if we were prepared to take on that much responsibility, but we did it anyway because the alternative may have been to split the market with another franchisee. So, we just figured if we continue to grow and the popularity of the brand continues on this way and we operate and execute the way that we have been, then it shouldn’t be that difficult for us. So, we took a leap of faith and it worked out.

Connecting with the community

I benefited from Los Angeles being close enough to Las Vegas, to where there was some familiarity to the brand… But what we really needed to do was to connect with the community in Las Vegas…. We needed to get in front of people and introduce them to our concept. It meant giving away a lot of free product in the beginning… in order for people to recognize you, you can't just open the doors because [Blaze is not] something that has that national recognition yet. So, there was a lot of extra legwork involved in the marketing. We did a solid job of connecting in our community and being partners with schools and athletic programs and sponsoring youth teams, and Blaze had a fundraiser program that we really took advantage of that helped us helped our business immensely.

TAGS: Fast Casual
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