Basketball superstar LeBron James invested in a small California-based pizza startup called Blaze Pizza back in 2012 and in five short years the chain has now become the fastest growing restaurant business in America, according to the industry consultancy firm, Technomic.
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Blaze, whose concept is feed consumers with fast, affordable, high-quality pizza that you can build yourself, has grown from two Southern California locations (Irvine and Pasadena) to 200 locations around the country over the last four years, with the latest restaurant opening in Mentor, Ohio this week.
According to Forbes, sales have grown from $6 million in 2013 to $185 million last year. The company’s CEO says he plans to target around $285 million in sales this year and $1.1 billion by 2022.
James, who is an all-in investor, a franchisee, and paid endorser of the company, doubled-down on Blaze in 2015 when he walked away from his McDonald’s sponsorship in order to grow the company. Since then, the basketball star has been reaching out to his 91 million followers across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to help get the word out.
The company’s CEO Jim Mizes told Forbes that LeBron has been key in terms of brand awareness which has helped grow the company to where it is today.
According to a recent Harris Poll, Blaze finished behind Papa John’s pizza as the best pizza chain brands in the U.S.