Red-hot Blaze Pizza is heading our way.
The country’s fastest-growing restaurant chain expects to open its first Albuquerque location next year in a new retail development near San Pedro and Paseo del Norte, according to the chain’s local franchisee, Yogesh Patel. Construction on the project is already underway on Holly Avenue, behind Chick-fil-A.
One of several fast casual pizza chains to emerge in recent years, Blaze Pizza topped Technomic’s 2016 list of the fastest-growing restaurant chains after seeing year-over-year sales rise 205 percent. Celebrity investors like LeBron James have helped the chain attract attention — the basketball superstar even worked at a location for a commercial.
Patel, who also has two Genghis Grill restaurants in Albuquerque, said his franchise group has had Blaze Pizza’s Albuquerque rights for 2½ years but has struggled to find the right locations. He plans to ultimately open three sites, but said opportunity is limited in high-profile areas like “restaurant row” in the north Interstate 25 corridor. He said he liked the Holly development because the area is already home to several busy restaurant chains like Chick-fil-A and Chipotle. He said he is also considering Uptown for another location.
Blaze Pizza will take about 3,100 square feet in one of the three new buildings planned for the Holly project, which is marketed by Maestas & Ward’s Thalia Toha and Todd Strickland.
Blaze follows a model similar to the homegrown WisePies Pizza & Salad and several other fast-casual pizza chains. Customers can build their own personal pizzas and have it baked in just a few minutes.
Wetzel’s Pretzels co-founder Rick Wetzel and wife Elise started Blaze in 2012 in Irvine, Calif., and has since grown to more than 150 locations. According to The Street, its sales should hit $200 million this year, compared to $33 million in 2014.