Blaze Pizza’s rapid growth is a manifestation of the dictum that the right execution and synergy in strategy planning, marketing, and operation is the elixir for business success. Through its feat, it has demonstrated an almost textbook-perfect example to the business world.
Before Blaze appeared on the scene in 2011, MOD Pizza had started three years earlier in Seattle and was soon hailed as the rising star destined to join the top pizzerias – Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Little Caesars, and Papa John’s – in the near future. MOD didn’t plan to create and operate in a niche pizza segment, but its offering of customized pizzas via free choice of fresh and mostly locally sourced toppings at low prices and fast speed had essentially created one in which it was winning.
Blaze must have dissected MOD’s model well because when it hanged out its shingles in 2011 it exhibited a similar business that was more segment focused, finer planned and superiorly executed operation. By 2015 Blaze was named the growth champion by pundits in the fast-casual food segment, and by November 2016 Blaze’s revenue of $161M was already more than double that of the previous segment leader’s, MOD, $64M.
Blaze’s success can be attributed to their achievements in the following key factors spanning across strategy planning, marketing, and operation excellence.
- Vision: Blaze aimed to be a national brand from the inception. Their single focus and determination gave the pizza joint a clear direction to continually inspire and steer the operations’ course.
- Mission: Blaze set out to take pizza back to the root – artisan pizza cooked by fire with fresh and locally sourced ingredients like the old days with no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and fillers, and to attain this while simultaneously delivering good customer experience.
- Segmenting: Blaze targeted the millennials. They had studied this group and concluded that these patrons needed ultrafast operation, “clean” ingredients, and convenience before Blaze was launched.
- Strategy: Choose stores at busy locations, offer one size at one price for any number of toppings, and use superhot fire burning ovens to make it easy, convenient, superfast, and back to the root for the customers; overstaff stores to minimize customer wait time and worker fatigues.
- Media: Blaze promote heavily on social media which millennials favor. Blaze also got LeBron James as an investor, endorser and promoter. This endorsement gave the business a very powerful push, and LeBron’s turning down a $14 million endorsement contract from Domino’s in order to get into the Blaze venture was itself a marketing joust to earn the brand an extra strong lift.
- Branding: The word blaze means fiercely burning fire, and it may just be the right metaphor for their 800 degree Fahrenheit fire ovens that turn out pizzas in 3 minutes. Hence using Blaze as its brand name might have made the customers’ dining experiences more memorable.
- Value: Clean, fast, artisanal, oven fired, fresh and “green” local ingredients, easy menu, flexible topping selections, convenient locations, and economical. These are all the things that any customer, not just millennials, would want, and Blaze offers them all. Inevitably, Blaze has not only exceled at the millennials segment, but also done very well at other demographics too.
- Marketing: The 3 M’s of marketing – market, message and medium – must be heeded in the right sequence. Some of the biggest mistakes and failures in marketing had resulted from using the 3 M’s in the wrong order. Blaze implemented these in exemplary succession and harmony.
- Financial: This is another strength that most startups did not match up. Its investors were all deep pocketed. Blaze could focus on perfecting their operations without digressing energy on getting the next rounds of funding too early too soon.
- Execution: Blaze overstaff to make certain that customers do not wait or wait too long to ensure of great customer experience. Additionally, their “clean journey” is almost complete due to their relentless sourcing effort.
- People: Their overstaffing not only minimizes customer wait times, but also alleviates employee fatigues. This deed translates to faster services, fewer order or execution mistakes, and higher customer satisfaction.
Albeit Blaze has achieved so much in so short a time, there are threats that can demise them. Some of their competitive advantages can wear off, and their rivals can overcome their own comparative weaknesses. Seasoned executives in its food segment have the chance to analyze Blaze’s operations during the past few years, and might learn to sharpen their mission focus, narrow their target market, craft more pertinent marketing messages, get celebrity endorsements to boost their brand recognitions, and further emphasize on social media their own unique merits. Another thing that could be of concern to Blaze is that their Glassdoor rating is only at 3.1 while the previous niche leader that it dethroned is at 3.6.
This tells us that MOD’s employees are speaking higher of their employer than Blaze’s. When both merchants have stores in the same locales, Blaze may encounter attritions if they don’t get their employee satisfactions to match up with MOD’s shortly. In a nutshell, many of Blaze’s competitive advantages are not inimitable. If they don’t keep up with their game, then someone else may soon leapfrog them.
Have you read another articles by Chi-Pong Wong?
He has published articles on leading online magazines including Venture Beat, Internet Retailer, Marketing Profs, CEOWORLD magazine, Smart Business, Customer Think, Triple Pundit, UX Matters, Service Director Business Review, Project Times, Project Management, PM Hut, Supply Chain Brain, Supply Chain Digital, and other popular journals.
He earned a MA in Economics at SUNY @ Stony Brook and a MS in Computer Science at Duke University. Before working for HP Inc, he has previously held various strategy, operations, and management positions at Hewlett-Packard, Arrow Electronics, IBM, STMicroelectronics, and NEC Electronics.
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