The untold truth of MOD Pizza

Pizza is one of the most agreed upon foods to ever exist. What to order for the office lunch? Pizza. What to order for dinner in a pinch? Pizza. It's pretty well every child's favorite food and equally favored among adults. It's so popular that, according to The Guardian, one in eight Americans eat pizza on any given day. That certainly is a lot of sauce, a ton of cheese, and a whole lotta dough to go through.

Part of the beauty of pizza is customization. Long gone are the days of ordering just cheese or pepperoni. Any pizza lover can get exactly what they want on a pizza, and now, there's a relatively new pizza joint on the block that allows everyone to get exactly as much or as little on their pie as they want — in just a matter of minutes. 

MOD Pizza, a fast-casual pizza joint, is taking the world by storm, growing at a ridiculous pace. From their company philosophy, to their whole slew of topping options, we decided to take a look at what MOD is all about. This is the untold truth of MOD Pizza.

MOD Pizza started in Seattle

In comparison to the pizza giants like Pizza Hut and Domino's, MOD is definitely the new kid on the block. 

MOD Pizza started in Seattle, Washington in 2008. Founders Scott and Ally Svenson were inspired to open their first pizza restaurant in their home of Seattle, but it wasn't necessarily on the basis of just needing to add another pizza option to the world. The Svensons were devoted to creating a workplace that their employees would love, and could thrive.

Scott's background was in investment banking and Ally had a career in the publishing industry, before the couple changed course and opened Seattle Coffee Company in 1995 in London. They had both left their day jobs to open a new business, and the leap of faith certainly paid off for them. The Svensons sold Seattle Coffee Company to Starbucks for close to $90 million in 1998. 

Ten years later, they moved back to Seattle, explored the pizza scene, and MOD Pizza was born.

MOD Pizza loves hiring ex-cons

It's not very often that a company embraces hiring those with past criminal histories, especially those with felonies. Sure, many states have implemented a 'Ban the Box' rule, making it so a candidate may have a fair screening and potentially an interview before any questions related to a criminal background are asked. But even with that rule in place, welcoming ex-cons to the workforce with open arms still isn't too prevalent.

That's definitely not the case for MOD Pizza. When the Svensons decided to open MOD, part of their reasoning was to offer a great place for employees to come to work, and they've been embracing employees with all types of backgrounds since the beginning. 

MOD Pizza calls it "impact hiring," and according to Entrepreneur, the company partners with community organizations devoted to offering career counseling for those who were incarcerated, as well as organizations helping those with autism, and ADHD, and other disabilities. "People go to job fairs and hire two or three people," Ally Svenson told Entrepreneur, "But we just hire that way."

MOD doesn't keep track of their number of impact hires, but according to the company, those hires are some of their most successful. 

MOD Pizza is growing ridiculously fast

A lot has happened since that first MOD Pizza location in downtown Seattle opened in 2008. 

The chain has opened new locations left and right, growing at a ridiculous pace. As of May, 2019, National Restaurant News reported that MOD Pizza was the fastest-growing Top 200 restaurant chain for a second year, after earning the title in 2018 as well. In 2019 alone, MOD Pizza saw a 44.7 percent growth in sales, for a total of 390.7 million in sales. 

After closing out 2018, MOD announced it had added 102 locations that year, creating close to 2000 new jobs for those who faced barriers to employment. In May, 2019 the company announced its plan to rapidly increase growth, with a goal of 1,000 locations over a five-year period, ultimately creating more than 14,000 new jobs. 

The next expansion is set to develop locations in Canada, with their first expansion project dedicated to Vancouver Island in British Columbia. If you don't have a MOD Pizza close by. chances are that you will soon.

MOD Pizza's founders didn't care about the recession

Some of the best business stories are the stories about people who decided to take a big leap of faith. But it's not often you hear about new businesses taking that leap of faith right at the beginning of a nationwide recession. There were clues that a recession was coming in 2006, but according to The Balance, the big crisis came in 2008 when the economy shrank 0.3 percent, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-backed mortgage insurers went bankrupt, and then the stock market crashed. Not exactly the best time to open a new business, and the Svensons definitely agreed. But it sure didn't stop them. 

Ally Svenson told Business Insider in an interview that it wasn't really a logical time to open a restaurant, but they decided to use it to their advantage. Because MOD Pizza was dedicated to giving people what they wanted, part of their model was all in the pricing structure. The one-price model, allowing a customer to get a pizza with unlimited toppings, was incredibly valuable for those who had limited disposable income during the recession. And with dedicated employees, great customer service, and a good product, their model was able to launch them into a thriving business, surviving the recession and only growing from there. 

MOD Pizza sued over its name

For MOD Pizza, naming their company wasn't just about coming up with a catchy name that people would recognize and remember. It was intentionally named MOD, an acronym for "Made on Demand" to further the company's mission of keeping people's needs in mind.

But when another company tried to use a similar version of their name, the company was quick to shut it down. Just a year after MOD Pizza opened its first location, another fast-casual option, Modmarket, opened in 2009. With pizzas, salads, and sandwiches on the menu, everything was a bit too similar. 

With both companies planning national expansions at the time, along with MOD Pizza losing a bid to open in the Denver Airport because Modmarket was already present and the names were too similar, things got heated. 

Modmarket sued, and then MOD Pizza filed to claim their senior trademark rights. A settlement was reached, and Modmarket started working on its name change to become Modern Market, leaving MOD Pizza with its meaningful name. 

The topping options at MOD Pizza are ridiculous

Walking into MOD is like a pizza Disneyland for adults. You can get anything and everything you want on your pizza. Really, everything. It's almost trickery. But giving people exactly what they want on their pizza is how founders Scott and Ally Svenson intended it.

As customers walk in, they choose their crust, or a salad option if desired. And then the toppings are put to the test. There are six different types of sauces to get the party started, including pesto and barbecue sauce, along with seven different types of cheese with everything from ricotta to feta to Gorgonzola. Choose one of the nine meat options, or even opt for all of them if you're feeling wild, but don't forget to leave room for all of the veggies. With roasted broccoli, corn, and red peppers, along with the classics like onions, mushrooms, and pineapple, there's literally everything you could ever wish for.

More than likely, they carry more than a few toppings you've tried on your pizza before, and this is your chance. The best part is that customers will never pay more to add additional toppings. 

You can grab a pizza and a beer at MOD Pizza

There aren't very many places you can go to, potentially with kids in tow, where every single member of the family can get exactly what they want to eat, especially when it comes to pizza. But MOD Pizza takes that even one step further. Sure, there are a million pizza and salad topping options, but the real surprise at MOD is that customers can sit down with a pizza and order pretty well anything they could want to drink to go with it.

Most surprisingly is that MOD offers glasses of wine and bottles or cans of beer among their drink options. And, many of the locations feature outdoor seating, allowing guests to enjoy their perfect pizza with a drink in the sunshine. 

According to MOD Pizza's website, they select regional and local options for each pizza joint, really making it feel like a true community establishment. There's also house-made teas and lemonades, along with hand-spun milkshakes to round out the beverage options to suit any palate.

MOD Pizza's dough recipe is actually quite simple

Perhaps part of the draw and surge in popularity for MOD Pizza all starts with its dough. After all, a pizza needs a good base, right?! 

If you take a look at the ingredients list for MOD's dough, you'll find unbleached wheat flour, water, olive oil, sea salt, yeast, and a specific addition called dough improver which is made up of wheat flour, barley flour, ascorbic acid, and enzymes. The ascorbic acid, which is basically a form of vitamin C, is used to strengthen the gluten in the dough and the enzymes are added to act as a catalyst, breaking down starch into sugar. Other than the dough improvements, it's pretty well the same exact ingredients you might use when whipping up a batch of pizza dough in your own home.

Compared to its industry counterparts, it really is quite a simple recipe. Pizza Hut's hand-tossed dough features flour, yeast, and water of course, but it also utilizes DATEM, which is used to improve volume and uniformity, plus, there's added sugar and sucralose. For being a large, ever-growing pizza chain, MOD Pizza's recipe really does go back to the basics. 

MOD Pizza is ideal for college students

Budgeting money during college can be incredibly tough, especially when it comes to balancing eating Ramen noodles in a dorm room most nights, and wanting to go out once in a while with friends. Many students are told that cooking their own food will help with cost savings, but MOD offers the ideal option for students to balance between the two. Going to MOD Pizza, a customer knows exactly what they're going to spend. The idea of helping people enjoy great, fun food on a fixed income, is part of what the Svensons built the company on, and college students can definitely use that to their advantage.

The price doesn't change whether you add two ingredients to a pizza or 22. And one college student put it to test for the Enterprise-Record in Chico, California. For Josh Cozine, a Chico State University student, MOD Pizza is the perfect place to go with just $11 in hand to get an incredibly filling lunch, plus leftovers for later during the midnight cramming session. Any student can pile the toppings on high, making their pizza more filling, ultimately further stretching their dollar.