How the Chipotle Style Pizza Started in California

The Wetzels only wanted some pizza for lunch but they ended up starting something big back in 2011 and it was no other than the the Chipotle style pizza known as Blaze Pizza. 

The owners of Wetzel's Pretzels didn't expect any expansion in their products but it had been successful since that idea started. 

“It was sort of this ‘aha’ moment when we looked at it: ‘Why can’t we do this to pizza, do what Chipotle did to the burrito or Mexican food?’” Rick Wetzel says. “That was sort of the spark that went off.”

After earning over 65 million in their various branches of pretzels in America, the two created this fast-casual pizza concept that was launched in 2012. With a target of 150 stores, the pizzeria already has 15 as the target for this year. 

The chipotle model is what they illustrated in the restaurant as they allow customers to choose over their toppings, cooked in two minutes and costs $7. It was somewhat the perfect way to attain the "perfect pizza" in every varying preference but they were not the only one to realize this. 

Competitions such as those of Uncle Maddio's Pizza has already filled in an air-tight plan with his executive team along with the franchise experienced ones. 

“It happened before in the better-burger category, it happened in the better-sandwich category, [and] the better-coffee category when Starbucks came on the scene,” Andrew, owner of Uncle Maddio's Pizza states. “Being in the better-pizza category and being the trailblazer in the better-pizza category is a very appealing proposition.”

Blaze Pizza is the same owner of Wetzels but doesn't have the support of it in its success as it is two different industries. The support they have so far is chef Bradford Kent's talents, California first lady Maria Shriver, basketball superstar LeBron James, Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, and Panda Express founder Andrew Cherng as its investors.

“Those guys have lots of help, lots of connections. They also have helped put a spotlight on the brand, so I kind of can use them like endorsement deals without having endorsements,” Wetzel says. “We’ve done this before; I’ve done Wetzel’s, and some of these investors are with Wetzel’s as well, so we assembled it and were able to go out and put together a top-notch headquarter team.”

Financially, they have no problem as they stock on high quality ingredients and the timeline that they are looking into for fast-casual pizza is around 5-7 years before it expands into their target of 500 to a thousand units. 

Fast Casuals, also known as better-pizzas have better ingredients and better ovens. They even have better executives that know pretty well of their artisan pizza. The most common thing about these restaurants in this industry is the fact that they all want to be the Chipotle of pizza. 

“Everybody’s saying this is the Chipotle of pizza. I’m really getting tired of that,” CEO Pie Five Randy Grier says “But I think it’s a reference that maybe helps consumers understand the concept.”

Posted by Diane Araga, on November 5, 2013 at 9:00 AM