Pizza is the next frontier for fast-casual dining.
A group of “better pizza” chains are currently engaged in an all-out “arm’s race” to take over the U.S., Sam Oches at QSR Magazine writes.
The new breed of pizza place prides itself on fresher ingredients than the average Papa John’s or Domino’s. It also boasts lower prices than fancier Italian fare.
“The better-pizza players have several other things in common,” Oches writes. “Their executives all toss around the words artisan, choice, and control and regularly reference other fast-casual categories, like Mexican, sandwich, and burgers, in conversation.”
We researched 11 joints trying to reinvent the pizza experience.
At Uncle Maddio's, customers interact with the pizza-maker and pick what kind of toppings they want. Then, they wait 6 minutes for the finished product. Uncle Maddio's was founded by the former president of Moe's Southwestern Grill. The chain opened in Atlanta in 2009 and now has 18 locations. It will expand in several states next year.
Blaze Pizza was started by Wetzel's Pretzels founders Rick and Elise Wetzel and debuted in 2012. The restaurant lets customers choose from seven meats, six sauces, 15 vegetables, and seven cheeses and fires up a fresh-baked personal pizza in about two minutes. The chain will have 15 locations open by the end of the year and 150 more in the pipeline.
The pizza-making station at PizzaRev resembles a Subway. The Southern California chain offers unlimited toppings for $US8. PizzaRev has about a dozen locations right now, but it has filed to franchise in all 50 states.
Pie Five, based in Dallas, was originally a spin-off of Pizza Inn Buffet. The brand claims that customers can create 5 million different combinations from its ingredients. The interactive pizza joint has about 20 locations so far, with plans for expansion in Florida, Maryland, Missouri, and Virginia.
Smashburger's founders launched Live Basil in Denver. The concept has fresh touches -- such as the basil hand-picked from a plant in front of customers. The first two restaurants opened in May, and the company is said to be plotting an expansion strategy.
MOD Pizza is based in Washington State. Customers can build their own pizza complete with a customised crust, sauce, and toppings, for the low fixed price of $US7.17. The business also delivers pizzas.
Founder James Markham said he founded Project Pie because he thought good pizza was too expensive and difficult to come by. He started with locations in Seattle and California, and has since expanded to Las Vegas. The chain is currently franchising.
Fresh casual chain Vapiano started in Germany, where it has about 50 locations. Since then, it has started franchising in the U.S. Vapiano has a range of customisable pizza, pasta, and salads. Vapiano has restaurants in 11 U.S. states and is planning to expand this year.
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