Blaze Pizza, a popular fast-casual pizza franchise with more than 300 locations in California and abroad, is set to open a branch on the corner of Bancroft Way and Dana Street.
Founded in 2011 by the creators of the similarly ubiquitous Wetzel’s Pretzels, Blaze Pizza is known for its “hyper-personalized pizzas,” according to Blaze Pizza franchisee Pawan Singh. In the style of restaurants such as Chipotle or Subway, each pizza is constructed on an assembly line according to the customer’s wishes. Singh said the franchise was given an opportunity by the American Campus Communities student housing company to open a location in Blackwell Hall.
“Berkeley is a great center for food and culture,” Singh said in an email. “We have been looking to bring something new and exciting to the city for both the locals as well as college students.”
Singh added in the email that the brand’s “edgy, custom, personalized” vision of pizza meshes with UC Berkeley’s campus lifestyle.
Many UC Berkeley students have expressed enthusiasm regarding the planned opening. Campus junior Ananya Pattnaik said she is happy to see a well-known chain open in Downtown Berkeley, which is populated mainly by locally-owned cafes.
“While I do feel like the beauty of Berkeley are its local spots and businesses, when I first moved here, there were many times where I craved a taste I was familiar to,” Pattnaik said in a Facebook message. “The concept of Blaze is appealing and delicious so I’m excited for them to open!”
Campus junior Joyce Guo, who has long frequented Blaze Pizza’s Disney World location, said she looks forward to sampling the chain’s trademark personal pizza with her friends. With a variety of toppings including spicy vegan chorizo, ghost pepper meatballs and an array of vegetables, the restaurant offers flexibility for friends with different tastes, Guo added.
Campus sophomore Fianna Ton said she has been eating at Blaze Pizza since she was a freshman in high school when a location opened at a nearby mall.
“I’m from New Hampshire and there’s not a lot of amazing places to eat near me, so Blaze pizza has always had a kind of special place in my heart because it’s where I’d go with my friends after school,” Ton said in a Facebook message. “I haven’t been home in awhile and Blaze pizza reminds me of it.”
As many Berkeley eateries shutter their doors in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Singh said Blaze Pizza is excited to create more jobs in Berkeley and provide students and locals with a new place to eat.
In contrast, Ton noted that the opening of a large franchise could present competition and pressure for local restaurants at a time when many are already struggling. She added, however, that campus students and Berkeley residents are loyal to their local favorites and are aware of the importance of supporting community businesses as well as enjoying corporate fare.
“Although I’m sad about a lot of stores and restaurants closing down, I’m excited for the new places that will gradually open as Berkeley comes back to bloom,” Guo added.