Blaze adds large pizzas, launches ad campaign in delivery push

The new pies are intended for sharing—and beating Domino’s, say execs.
Photograph courtesy of Blaze Pizza

Blaze Pizza began its push for a larger share of the pizza delivery market with the official introduction this morning of large pizzas, the brand’s first national TV campaign and new promotional help from investor and NBA superstar LeBron James.

The new pies measure 14 inches across, compared with the 11-inch version that has been the chain’s signature. The smaller pizzas are marketed as individual-sized and are custom-made to each customer’s specifications, and have been available for delivery through several third-party services. The larger versions will be touted as shareable and family-sized, making them more suitable for delivery and catering-type orders. In tests, they pushed dinner sales slightly above the dollar volume for lunch, skewing what has been a 50-50 sales split, according to executives of the fast-casual chain. 

The larger pies are intended exclusively for online ordering, though in-store requests will be accommodated, according to Daniela Simpson, director of Blaze's digital growth division. Similarly, the 14-inch pizzas will be marketed as takeout and delivery options, but a group looking to share one on-premise won’t be turned away, she said. 

Instead of being passed down a production line, as the smaller pies are, the larger pizzas are assembled at one station by a single employee, who’ll read the customer’s topping requests off a printout of the online order. The preparation takes place on a second prep line that has been included in restaurants virtually since the launch of the concept, though seldom used, according to Blaze co-founder Rick Wetzel. 

The large pies are baked in the same ovens used for Blaze’s smaller pizzas. The capacity of the ovens enabled both types of pies to be baked simultaneously with room left over during prelaunch tests, Simpson told Restaurant Business

Five standard versions, including a vegetarian and vegan pie, are offered. The pies were specifically formulated with a slightly thicker crust to ensure they would travel well, Simpson said. She noted that the pizzas have been in stores for two months to work out kinks and gather info, but she would not share sales data.

Some units will also feature an online special for deal hunters: an $8.99 pepperoni pie intended to go head-to-head with Domino's standard pizza.

Blaze is touting the addition of the new line as an important step in its recently undertaken quest to bypass Domino’s as the nation’s most frequent choice for delivered pizza. But challenging the segment leader won’t mean matching the discounts of the larger chain, said Wetzel. A thorough comparison of the two brands’ menus reveals that Blaze is already a greater value because it doesn’t nickel and dime customers for every topping, he asserts.

The chain intends to call attention to the larger pies with the new ad campaign. It’s themed, “Upgrade the way you pizza,” a reference to Blaze’s use of fresh ingredients and dough. It will air on Hulu, Sling and Amazon TV.

Supplementing the work of agency Zeus Jones is a new social media video featuring James. He pretends to be “Ron,” just another Blaze employee who happens to be on a delivery run. As he lugs around a stack of boxed pies, he’s recognized by passersby, who are rewarded with one of the pizzas at no charge. 

The video is an update of the viral spot that James recorded for Blaze in 2016, to what the chain describes as considerable success.

In a touch of guerrilla warfare, pizza chain Papa John's aired a commercial last Thursday that starred another NBA legend, Shaquille O'Neal. 

With 341 restaurants and projected 2019 systemwide sales of $400 million, Blaze has far to go to catch Domino’s, a 5,876-unit behemoth with chainwide sales of $6.59 billion. But, says Simpson, “legacy delivery pizza has remained stuck. Today, we are here to disrupt the category.”

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