A major milestone for LeBron James-backed Pizza. Fittingly, the pizza chain achieved that milestone in Northeast Ohio.
Blaze Pizza, a build-your-own pizza franchise, was founded five years ago with two pizza places in Southern California. It opened its 200th location Wednesday in Mentor and the line wrapped around the store.
According to Forbes, going from two to 200 franchises in four years is the fastest start in the history of the U.S. food service business.
James has backed Blaze Pizza since day one. CEO Jim Mizes says the basketball star's presence in the company helps with the chain's brand awareness - and the statistics prove it. A recent Harris Poll shows Blaze finished second among the best pizza chain brands in the country, finishing behind Papa John's and before Pizza Hut, which has more than 7,000 locations nationwide.
Of course it helps when James uses social media to help promote Blaze.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 11, 2017
James invested in Blaze Pizza in 2012, according to Forbes. Then, in 2013, he became a franchisee and opened a location in South Florida when he played for the Miami Heat, the business journal also says.
James also walked away from previous sponsor with McDonald's in 2015 and decided to market Blaze instead, Forbes reports. Mizes hopes that having the basketball powerhouse behind Blaze's brand will help the company to add 100-150 restaurants per year from 2018 onwards. Mizes is also looking to expand internationally - Blaze is currently in 32 states and Canada.