• Blaze Pizza and Mountain Mike’s Pizza claimed the No. 8 and No. 9 spots, respectively, on Fast Casual’s new list of the 100 most innovative restaurant brands in the U.S.
  • Fazoli’s, an Italian chain that offers pizza, ranked No. 7 on the list, which was topped by Asian cuisine brand Wow Bao.

Related: Blaze Pizza’s Mandy Shaw named to NRN’s Most Influential Women List

Two major pizza brands made the Top 10 list for Fast Casual’s 2022 Top 100 Movers and Shakers, which highlights innovative restaurant brands and executives in the fast-casual segment. Blaze Pizza took the No. 8 spot, while Mountain Mike’s Pizza came in at No. 9. Topping the list was Wow Bao, a Chicago brand specializing in Asian cuisine. Fazoli’s, an Italian chain, was No. 7.

Fast Casual notes that Blaze Pizza, which has 340 locations in 38 states and six countries, “kicked off the year reporting an 18% increase in systemwide sales and signing seven deals to develop 34 locations across Tennessee, Florida, Alaska and California.” The publication pointed to Blaze’s revamped mobile app that creates “a seamless ordering process” and the company’s booming digital sales “supported by the use of a QR code for contactless menus.”

“Beyond the consumer-facing technology, Blaze employs numerous tech solutions for franchisees to better operate and manage their restaurants,” the report adds. “One example of this is Labor Guru, which integrates into Blaze’s labor management system to forecast labor needs. Additionally, Blaze leverages guest experience apps such as Tattle and Birdeye, which are monitored at the support center level, and an upcoming food management system to help best forecast and control food cost.”

Mountain Mike’s opened its 250th store in Woodland, California, this year.

Founded in 1978, Mountain Mike’s, the report states, “doesn’t operate like an old company.” The brand had its best sales year in 2021 with $254 million in total system sales and has set a goal of $300 million mark for 2022.

“The 250-unit chain also surpassed $1 million in systemwide AUV (average unit volume), and sales across its digital platforms…have tripled over the past two years and account for over $100 million and 40% of Mountain Mike’s system sales,” Fast Casual reports.

Mountain Mike’s prospects look good for 2022 so far, with same-store sales and total system sales up 7% and 10% respectively at the end of the first quarter, according to a company press release.

Mountain Mike’s also rolled out its Mountain Rewards mobile app and loyalty program, which is expected to rack up 250,000 members by the end of 2022.

Mountain Mike’s jumped 10 spots from last year’s ranking, and Fast Casual also named Jim Metevier, the company’s president and COO, among the nation’s top 25 fast-casual restaurant executives.

“Within the restaurant industry, numbers are so critical because they communicate so much about a brand, and I know everyone at Mountain Mike’s is uplifted by the impressive performance data we continue to produce,” Metevier said in a statement. “This accolade from Fast Casual is certainly an honor we are proud to receive—and a proof-point of our success as we continue to forge an ambitious path to the top of the fast-casual pizza segment.”

Fazoli’s, meanwhile, wrapped up 2021 with an increase of 22.7% in sales and 15.7% in traffic, Carl Howard, the company’s recently retired CEO, told Fast Casual. Howard added, “While we do not have the firepower to drive the performance of the large national brands, we continue to be nimble and swift to leverage our brand as an industry leader.”

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