California-based Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza announced that it has begun to accept franchise applications in key markets across the U.S. The company plans to build stores across California and select U.S. cities through a combination of both company-owned and franchise locations.

Blaze Pizza's first location in Irvine, Calif., opened last month, and its second restaurant is set to open in October in Pasadena, Calif.'s Theater District. Plans for a third location on Los Angeles' westside are also underway.

A creation of Elise and Rick Wetzel (founder of Wetzel's Pretzels), and featuring the Executive Chef Bradford Kent (owner of L.A.'s Olio Pizzeria and Cafe), Blaze Pizza is backed by a number of well-known investors including Maria Shriver, movie producer John Davis and Boston Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner.

Initial Western markets now available for franchising include Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Denver. In addition, the company is now accepting applications for multi-unit franchise candidates in New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Orlando, Houston and Dallas.

"We've received a tremendous amount of interest in the concept and are pleased to be able to now move forward strategically with franchise expansion," said company president Elise Wetzel. "Our plan is to selectively identify those franchise candidates who we are confident can execute successfully in this category, and work together to develop Blaze into a national brand."

The company is primarily focusing on centers that service both lunch/daytime traffic and dinner/nighttime traffic, and co-tenancy with similar brands such as Chipotle, Five Guys or Panera Bread.

Blaze Pizza uses an assembly line format for guests to customize one of the menu's signature pizzas or create one of their own. The personal pizzas are then sent to an open-hearth oven, the centerpiece of the eatery, where pizzasmiths ensure the thin-crust pies are cooked in 120 seconds.

Read more about franchising and growth.

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