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Blaze Pizza is ready to take on Domino's Pizza and the public markets

Brian Sozzi

Blaze Pizza co-founder Rick Wetzel says he is ready to take on two big obstacles: pizza king Domino’s Pizza (DPZ) and the public markets.

“We are ready to take on Domino’s, yes,” the serial entrepreneur turn pizza brand builder Wetzel told Yahoo Finance at an event in New York City Wednesday night. Wetzel and his fellow co-founder and wife Elise were in town (Blaze Pizza’s HQ is in Pasadena, CA.) to promote Blaze Pizza’s new larger pizzas, mobile ordering/delivery and commercial with brand endorser/early investor LeBron James.

Wetzel says finally serving large pizzas that cater to families and dialing up mobile ordering are some of the last key building blocks needed to mount a serious challenge to the Big 3 in fast-food pizza: Domino’s, Papa John’s (PZZA) and Pizza Hut (YUM). Since Blaze Pizza was founded in 2011, it has mostly focused on a dine-in experience where people come into the store and order in a queue similar to burrito giant Chipotle (CMG).

To be clear though, Blaze Pizza does have a long way to go to catch up to its larger rivals. Blaze Pizza pulled in about $$326 million in sales last year on 296 restaurants located in the U.S., according to data from Technomic. Domino’s total sales clocked in at $3.4 billion in 2018 on more than 15,000 restaurants around the world.

Blaze Pizza plans to open 50 restaurants this year, bringing its total close to 400. Wetzel says Blaze Pizza will open its first location soon in the United Kingdom. The company has several locations internationally, mostly in the Middle East.

Los Angeles Lakers fans wait in line around noon for promised free pizza that will be handed out between 2 and 5 p.m. at Blaze Pizza, a restaurant chain NBA basketball player LeBron James was an original investor in, Tuesday, July 10, 2018, in Culver City, Calif. James had hinted that he might appear at the location today. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

The Big Three in pizza have successfully penetrated rural markets with lower income demographics relative to the larger cities that have birthed Blaze Pizza. Wetzel says it’s that economically sensitive customer that Blaza Pizza has its eyes on serving next. The company recently signed on 15 new franchisees, which are ready to dial up the new store growth in 2020 and beyond... likely in these new markets.

The Wetzels certainly have a great David versus Goliath story to tell and execute around right now. That along with the better ingredient message that is luring in the more health-conscious crowd. And soon, they may be pitching that very intriguing story to bankers on Wall Street.

Wetzel says he would like to bring Blaze Pizza to public markets within three years. Wall Street should have a good handle on Blaze Pizza’s business and prospects, always important on roadshows.

Besides Yahoo Finance seeing several top Wall Street analysts in the room Wednesday night (not the norm for a privately held restaurant releasing new food), Blaze Pizza began presenting at the heavily attended ICR Conference in 2016.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-host of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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