A major pizza the pie.
Washington State is famed for its revolutionary new ideas in aerospace, technology and biotech, but pizza?
O.K., so Washington may not be as well-known as traditional pizza strongholds such as Naples, Chicago or New York, but it does have the bragging rights to being the world headquarters for MOD Pizza, one of the most innovative and fastest growing fast-casual restaurant concepts in the U.S.
If you haven’t heard of MOD yet, you will soon. The company is in rapid expansion mode, fueled in part by investors who pumped $74 million into the restaurant group in 2016 and the introduction of a new franchise option. The company has grown from a single restaurant in 2008 to nearly 200 store fronts today in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
The idea isn’t exactly something they teach in MBA programs: A pizza restaurant that allows customers to create their own pizzas or salads based entirely on the size ordered, not the type of ingredients or number of items added to it. Piping hot pizzas are cooked in just three minutes using an 800° oven and if the customer doesn’t like their first creation, they get a do-over free.
MOD Pizza (MOD is short for Made On Demand), is the brainchild of Scott and Ally Svenson who were trying to figure out an economical way to feed their four hungry boys. The couple had already been successful in the food and beverage space, starting the successful UK-based coffee company Seattle Coffee Company, which they eventually sold to Starbucks.
After doing some market research for a new project, the Svensons settled on the idea of reinventing a traditional pizzeria, allowing customers to order a custom pizza or salad that was priced by size alone. The number and types of toppings wouldn't affect the price. The couple also decided that they not only wanted to serve artisan-style pizzas for a low cost, but they wanted to pay their employees above-average industry wages and donate regularly to the communities they serve.
This secret sauce has allowed MOD Pizza to focus on customer and employee satisfaction and community service without sacrificing quality or growth potential.
“At MOD, we’re committed to using our business as a platform to make a positive social impact,” says Ally. One of the year’s highlights is the company’s annual Spreading MODness campaign, which takes place in November. In 2016, the company pledged to help 165 charities in the U.S. and U.K. by donating $1 for every MOD-size pizza sold during the week of the fundraiser. They estimate that $250,000 would go to charities that week.
While customers get a second chance to have the pizza of their dreams, some MOD employees get a second chance as well. MOD Squadders, as employees are known, come from all walks of life. Some have even done time behind bars, which can make it difficult, if not impossible, to get a job.
“We talk about the fact that it really doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what matters is where you’re going. It matters more what you do today and tomorrow than what you’ve done yesterday,” Scott said in a recent interview.
So far, the Svenson's recipe for success seems to be paying off. MOD Pizza reported $70.5 million in earnings in the first half of 2016, a 168% increase over the same period the year before and announced plans to open at least 50 more restaurants. Any way you slice it, that's a real Washington State success story.