The “fast-casual” food industry — think of places like Chipotle or Panera — is booming. According to Technavio, the market for fast-casual fare is expected to hit $66.87 billion by 2020, and there are dozens (if not hundreds) of fast-casual concepts that have opened in recent years to compete for their share of the pie, some as offshoots of major fast food chains and some from big-name fine dining chefs. The pizza department is really booming, with pizza chains growing at a rapid clip and looking poised to keep the big guys like Domino’s and Papa John’s on their toes. Keep an eye on these four chains, because one (or more) might be coming to your neck of the woods faster than you might think, and check out America's 35 favorite pizza chains here.
Washington, D.C.-based &pizza uses organic dough and sources ingredients as locally as possible. Guests can craft their own pizzas with unique components like ancient grains crust, mushroom truffle sauce, vegan “mozzarella” or “beef,” and spicy chick peas. There were 13 locations in 2015, and currently there are 22 locations in D.C., Maryland, Northern Virginia, New York City, and Pennsylvania, three more in the works.
Co-founded by Elise and Rick Wetzel (of Wetzel’s Pretzels fame), the Pasadena, California-based Blaze is standing apart from the pack by making pizza assembly-line-style (similar to Chipotle) and cooking pizzas in three minutes. In 2004, the company expanded from 10 to 50 locations; 100 were open by the end of 2005, and there are currently more than 200 locations across the U.S. with a few in Canada. The brand counts Maria Shriver and LeBron James as investors.
House-made sauce, organic dough, hand-spun shakes, and unlimited complimentary toppings all contributed to Seattle-based MOD Pizza growing massively over the past couple years, from 92 units in 2015 to more than 230 in 2017. A $32 million investment from Perella Weinberg Partners didn’t hurt, either. There are currently locations in 22 states and the United Kingdom.
Los Angeles-based PizzaRev is backed by Buffalo Wild Wings, and today there are 42 U.S. locations (with 10 more in the works) and four Mexico locations. PizzaRev lets customers choose from nine “Our Way” pizzas or select from three crusts, five sauces, six cheeses, and nearly 30 toppings, including plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.