The Untold Truth Of Blaze Pizza

Blaze Pizza is on fire these days — pun intended — opening up new fast-casual pizza restaurant locations left and right.

With its completely customizable pizzas, a strong commitment to the environment, artisinal ingredient options, funky restaurant designs, and myriad menu options for people with dietary restrictions, it's no surprise that Blaze Pizza is becoming so popular. The chain specializes in oven-fired pizzas with dozens of toppings to choose from, including some non-traditional options like gorgonzola cheese and vegan chorizo.

The chain first opened in 2011 as the brainchild of entrepreneurs Rick and Elise Wetzel. Name sound familiar? It should, as this business-minded duo is also behind the popular mall food court staple, Wetzel's Pretzels. Clearly, the Wetzels and their other partners have a track record for success. Case in point: Blaze Pizza is now one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in America, easily topping its competitors like MOD Pizza and Pieology.

If you're wondering what type of secret sauce is helping to make Blaze Pizza so successful, read on to learn about the untold truth of this new pizza giant.

Blaze Pizza has an assembly-line format like Chipotle

If you've ever been to a Chipotle restaurant location, then you know how fun it can be to customize your burrito or burrito bowl with various meats, veggies, salsas, and other toppings. Subway is the same way, giving you the power to create your own perfect custom sandwich from scratch. The possibilities are nearly limitless at this style of restaurant.

Well, it turns out Blaze Pizza is modeled after these types of fast-casual restaurants. According to Inc., the goal was to create the "Chipotle of pizza," and by the looks of it, its founders have accomplished what they set out to achieve, with Blaze Pizza on its way to becoming household name just like Chipotle. When you walk into a Blaze Pizza location, you'll step right up to the counter and tell the staffer exactly how to build your pizza. You'll get to pick your sauce, cheeses, meats, veggies, and "finishes," which is Blaze Pizza's word for the various little extras you can get on your pizza. 

Whether you're into a pizza with classic red sauce or you like to live life on the edge by adding goat cheese to your pie, you can pretty much do whatever you want at Blaze Pizza. Other popular ingredients include applewood bacon, ricotta, mushrooms, pineapple, arugula, feta cheese, white cream sauces, bbq drizzle, and even buffalo sauce. Yum!

LeBron James was an early investor in Blaze Pizza

Lots of companies partner with celebrities to endorse their products — these sponsorships usually relate to the celebrity's profession, like playing professional sports or looking beautiful while walking down a runway. In these instances, the company pays the celebrity to endorse the product or service.

But in other cases, celebrities are so intrigued by an idea that they actually decide to invest their own money to help see it succeed. After all, they usually have tons of money to spend and are often looking for ways to invest it. Such is the case with LeBron James, an early investor in Blaze Pizza. He even gave up a deal with McDonald's in order to back the burgeoning pizza chain, but it seems his risk has paid off. According to SBNation, James' initial $1 million investment in 2012 has grown to $35 million and counting. 

And how does James like his pizza, you might be wondering? When he's hungry, he'll add as many as 16 toppings to his pie! Having James on board has undoubtedly helped the fast-growing restaurant chain become so successful, too. After all, James has some serious star power, with more than 68 million follows on Instagram alone,  and he posts about Blaze Pizza quite often.

Blaze Pizza's top chef has a serious culinary background

This isn't your average run-of-the-mill, fast food pizza chain. In fact, Blaze Pizza is led by chef Brad Kent, an accomplished culinary mastermind with a serious food background. Kent, who began cooking and growing his own produce as a child, started his own catering business while he was in college. He then went on to earn a degree from the Culinary Institute of America; he also holds a degree in food science and nutrition, according to Zagat. He's worked for some top-notch fine dining establishments, where he learned the ins and outs of commercial kitchens.

Kent also opened his own pizza shop, Olio Pizzeria, and helped Trader Joe's develop some of their snack food items. Over the years, he's developed his own delicious proprietary pizza dough recipe, which somehow manages to be both soft and crunchy at the same time. Kent is the real deal and he lends his expertise to Blaze Pizza locations all over the country.

The dough recipe, understandably, is top secret.

 "It's packaged and the mixes get mixed together," Kent says. "We have specialized equipment that has timers so you won't over-mix it. We adjust the temperature daily for the flour, the bowl, the room, but the water temperature will be the same at every store. We use machines to press the dough to our specifications, to get a gentle press each time."

Blaze Pizza ferments its pizza dough for 24 hours

If you've ever eaten different styles of pizza (New York, deep dish, hand-tossed, etc.), then you already know that not all crusts are created equal — far from it, in fact. The crusts made by Blaze Pizza are also unique, in that they're fermented for at least 24 hours.

Blaze Pizza's dough is made with filtered water, unbleached flour, yeast, extra virgin olive oil, and just a sprinkle of salt. This simple dough is then allowed to hang out for 24 hours to let the yeast do its thing (eating the sugars in the dough's ingredients, then releasing carbon dioxide gas), which ultimately leads to air pockets in the dough. The result is a crispy, light crust that serves as the perfect base for all of Blaze Pizza's many toppings. Blaze Pizza's crusts are made fresh, not created in some warehouse somewhere and then frozen for weeks at a time.

Blaze Pizza also makes gluten-free dough, keto crusts, and cauliflower gluten-free dough, so even if you've got certain crust-related dietary restrictions, like a gluten allergy or intolerance, you can still enjoy their pies.

Blaze Pizza is not afraid to experiment with pizza ingredients

Pizza can be a pretty conservative and simple food if you want it to be — red sauce, mozzarella cheese, a little basil, boom, you're done. But the folks behind Blaze Pizza are taking a totally different approach, offering unique and artisanal ingredients that go beyond the standard cheese, pepperoni, and supreme menu items offered at most restaurants.

In addition to fun toppings like Italian meatballs or garlic pesto sauce, the culinary team at Blaze Pizza isn't afraid to experiment with some outside-the-box ingredients, too. Case in point: Blaze Pizza recently created a pizza with White Claw, the popular alcoholic seltzer drink, according to Pasadena Star-News. Instead of adding the usual water to their pizza dough, they substituted mango White Claw to make a limited-time offering called "White Claw Pizza." The alcohol cooked off while the pizza was in the super-hot oven, leaving behind just a tiny hint of mango flavoring. And since there wasn't any alcohol remaining in the finished product, the pizza wasn't limited to those of legal drinking age, but available to all customers. 

Blaze Pizza only cooks its pizzas for 180 seconds

If you've ever made pizza at home, then you know that when you're starving, it can feel like it takes forever before all the cheese has finally melted and the crust gets crispy. Not at Blaze Pizza. In fact, the pizza cooks at Blaze Pizza restaurants only bake each pizza for a maximum of 180 seconds — three minutes, to be exact — because the oven is so incredibly hot.

Blaze Pizza's ovens can reach temperatures of up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, which essentially flash cooks each pizza in record time. Because of this and many other restaurant efficiencies, each location can churn out more than 200 pizzas an hour.

As you might imagine, it's not easy to figure out how to cook a pizza perfectly, without burning any part of it, in an oven that's so hot. The team at Blaze understands the oven inside and out, including where any hot spots might be located — they know if and when they need to move the pizzas around to get the perfect level of doneness. The specially trained crew of people who bake the pizzas are called pizzasmiths or pizzaiolos, an Italian word that literally translates to "someone who makes pizzas in a pizzeria." How very appropriate.

Blaze Pizza doesn't use any artificial colors, flavors or preservatives

Blaze Pizza takes its commitment to using only the freshest, best ingredients very seriously. In 2017, the popular pizza chain decided to completely stop using ingredients that contained artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and other additives (via QSR Magazine). They also stopped using high-fructose corn syrup at all restaurants.

They called this bold move the "Keepin' It Real" initiative and it took them 18 months to find new suppliers and work with existing suppliers to find sources for all-natural ingredients. On the menu, this means that you won't find any nitrites in Blaze Pizza's cured meats, nor will you find any artificial preservatives in the popular chain's salad dressing or garlic. In addition, you may notice that the olives and banana peppers served at Blaze Pizza don't look quite as vibrant as they do at other places; this is because Blaze Pizza is now using ingredients that haven't been artificially dyed to make them look more appetizing — you're getting olives and pepper au natural, as nature intended them to be. Blaze Pizza locations also began offering Blue Sky cane sugar sodas and began using barbecue sauce made without corn syrup. They promise that pizza-lovers will be able to taste — and appreciate — the difference that all these changes have made.

Blaze Pizza uses completely eco-friendly packaging

Blaze Pizza is truly a modern restaurant chain, through and through. They understand the values of their customers — mostly young people, including Millennials and Gen Z-ers — and they're putting their money where their mouth is. Case in point: All Blaze Pizza locations use 100 percent eco-friendly packaging. This means that every single food storage container, soda cup, and utensil is recyclable, compostable, or made from post-consumer reclaimed materials. In 2019, the popular pizza chain also started getting rid of plastic straws, replacing them with new domed lids instead; they also put up signs to communicate their disdain for straws, taking the initiative one step further and encouraging diners to simply give up using straws in their lives altogether.

For Blaze Pizza lovers who want to do their part in protecting the environment, this is good news, since you can eat as many pizzas as your heart desires without worrying about all the garbage you're sending to the landfill. 

"Forks, knives, cups, lids — even those cute little containers that hold the salad dressing — were thoughtfully chosen because they left a smaller footprint than most commonly available choices," according to the Blaze Pizza website.

Blaze Pizza partners with an award-winning restaurant architect to design its locations

Have you ever stopped to really look around and take in all the scenery while eating out at a restaurant? Maybe you've noticed a new menu design from time to time, but you probably haven't noticed all the subtle little design cues that make you feel right at home. Blaze Pizza wants everyone to feel comfortable at its restaurant locations, so the chain partners with award-winning restaurant architect Ana Henton to create a warm, welcoming vibe.

The goal? To design restaurants that add "dimension" to your experience and exteriors — fire pits, bright lights, funky patterns — that also help tell the Blaze Pizza story, according to the company's website. Restaurant locations typically range in size from 2,200 to 3,000 square feet, with even more space included in the outdoor patio. The restaurant locations play college alt-rock music to help keep things lively and upbeat for diners.

For her part, Henton specializes in designing restaurants both large and small. She's formally trained as an architect and holds a master's degree from Princeton University. She also cut her teeth by working at top-notch architecture firms before launching her own business, Ana Henton Designs.

The Disney Springs location can serve 3,000 pizzas a day

There's no way around it: People just love Disney. Even grown adults flock to the Disney theme parks on a regular basis to meet characters, ride the rides, and just generally enjoy the whimsical atmosphere and the warm weather. Perhaps that's why the Disney Springs location of Blaze Pizza is so wildly successful. Thousands of people a day visit this restaurant located in Disney Springs, which is basically like a large, outdoor Disney-themed shopping mall near Orlando, Florida (not far from Disney World!).

In fact, this location is so busy that it can produce up to 3,000 pizzas per day. Blaze even argues that it's likely the busiest pizza joint on the planet (of course, that's debatable). The company calls this their "flagship location" and you can see from pictures just how massive it really is. This specific location was designed with high-volume pizza-making in mind, ensuring that hungry diners can get in and out in a jiffy without getting too hangry along the way.

You can make your own Blaze Pizza at home

Let's face it, we all have those days where we just don't feel like leaving the house, especially not to visit a busy restaurant packed with people. If you don't feel like putting on pants or you just don't want to run into someone you know and get dragged into a long conversation, consider the fact that you can now make your very own Blaze Pizza at home.

The popular pizza chain offers take-home pizza kits at participating locations. Even if you don't have a 900-degree pizza oven at home, you can still enjoy a warm and delicious pizza pie. The kits come in varying sizes and include everything you need to get cooking, including a ball of dough, dusting flour, pizza sauce, and up to seven toppings. Chef Brad Kent also hopped on YouTube from his home kitchen to explain exactly what you need to do to make the perfect Blaze Pizza at home.

Blaze Pizza is expanding around the globe

There are more than 300 Blaze Pizza locations in various states around the country — the chain has rapidly expanded its national reach in recent years.

Now, they're also taking their build-your-own-pizza franchise overseas, with new locations in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. All told, there are four international locations so far, and Blaze Pizza promises that even more are in the works. You can expect to see Blaze Pizza locations opening in the near future in Mexico, Asia, and Europe, according to an interview a Blaze Pizza executive gave to Skift.

From a very big-picture perspective, the company hopes to expand to a total of 1,000 locations around the world by 2022, an ambitious goal that also aligns with the company's plan to go public in the same year. The chain operates with a franchise model, with each new location taking about 20 weeks to design, build, and open.

Blaze Pizza offers keto and vegan pizzas

In addition to their diverse crust offerings, Blaze Pizza can also accommodate diets like the keto diet or the vegan diet, according to Forbes.

Since people following a vegan diet don't eat any animal products, you might be wondering how on earth a pizza chain could possibly accommodate them (cheese is one of the main ingredients of pizza). Well, Blaze Pizza has found a way to do it and make it delicious to boot — no cardboard taste here. Their vegan pizza can be made with vegan spicy chorizo, soy-free vegan cheese, and tons of fresh vegetables. Three types of their standard dough — original, gluten-free, and high-rise — are also all vegan anyway, so there's no need to ask for a special crust if you're vegan or vegetarian.

For keto dieters, the chain offers a special crust that has just 6 grams of net carbs. Of course, you'll still need to factor in any carbs in the toppings you choose, but this is a great start nonetheless. The keto crust is made without flour, which Blaze Pizza's chefs have replaced with flaxseed, cheese, and eggs.

Blaze Pizza encourages its employees to be themselves and the company promotes from within

The people who work at Blaze Pizza locations around the country genuinely seem to enjoy their jobs. It's a fast-paced environment, so every shift flies by in the blink of an eye. Plus, the company encourages its employees to be themselves when they come to work — they want their employee's authentic personalities to shine through, so long as they are offering top-notch customer service and making delicious pizzas at the same time. The company often promotes from within, with employees rising through the ranks to the positions of shift leader, then manager, then corporate.

And for employees who want to be their own boss, they can easily apply to open up their own franchise location, too. Blaze Pizza's franchise fee is between $20,000 and $30,000 per store, with a continuous payment of seven percent of sales to go to advertising and royalties, according to the company's website. You'll need to have saved up some additional cash beyond that, however, as Blaze requires all partners to have at least $500,000 in cash reserves. And you'll be responsible for covering the costs of operating the restaurant, which typically range from $319,800 to $858,000 per year. 

As a franchise owner, you'll spend two weeks training at their headquarters in Pasadena, California, then two weeks training at your store.