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MOD Pizza’s growth boosted by Starbucks-heavy advisory group

MOD Pizza has opened its fourth unit, located in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The new restaurant is MOD's fourth store in just over two years and is part of a growth plan that has been orchestrated to test markets with different demographics, including downtown, urban, suburban and university areas.

MOD Pizza has begun to develop a second phase growth plan.

The company's concept was conceived by a group of Seattle entrepreneurs, including founders Scott and Ally Svenson, who started the Seattle Coffee Company in London in 1995. That brand, featuring made-to-order espresso drinks and coffee bar culture, grew from three to 65 stores in less than 24 months.

In 1998, Seattle Coffee Company was acquired by Starbucks Coffee Company with the latter company's entry into the European market. Scott Svenson remained on as president of Starbucks UK, and subsequently president of Starbucks Europe, during which time he authored the company's European Strategic Plan.

Michael Klebeck also played a key role in developing the MOD brand. As co-founder of Top Pot Doughnuts, he introduced Seattle to hand-forged doughnuts, developing a dedicated fan base while growing Top Pot to five Seattle area locations.

MOD's group of advisors behind its growth plan include Lindsey Schwartz (president and CEO, Schwartz Brothers Restaurants), Adam Brotman (VP digital ventures, Starbucks), Jim Alling (COO T-Mobile, formerly president of U.S. and international operations, Starbucks) and Paul Twohig (COO Dunkin' Donuts, formerly senior vice president retail operations, Starbucks and COO of Panera Bread).

"I see many parallels between the growth of MOD and what I saw with Seattle Coffee Company. We feel this is an exciting opportunity and are working hard to prepare and execute a thoughtful but rapid growth plan. We feel the market is ready," said Twohig, who was with Starbucks during its acquisition of Seattle Coffee Company.

The MOD Pizza concept revolves around thin crust, artisan-style pizza that is made-to-order and served in a stylized environment. Ally Svenson said the company uses Chipotle as an ideal model – tapping into an affordable made-to-order niche.

"We see the same opportunity with pizza," she said. "Our four very different locations have shown that this concept appeals to a broad demographic. We tested markets in a similar fashion in the UK during the growth of Seattle Coffee Company and as each store succeeded, we realized that we had a sustainable business model."

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