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LeBron James-backed Blaze Pizza is going global

February 27, 2018 GMT

LeBron James-backed Blaze Pizza is going global

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- LeBron James is a global superstar, so it makes sense that his pizza chain is going global too.

In the company’s annual earnings report, Blaze Pizza announced it is expanding beyond North America this year with stores Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Beyond 2018, the fast-casual chain has agreements to open franchises in United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Egypt, and Morocco.

By the end of the year, Blaze will have 340 restaurants across five countries and 41 U.S. states. The chain’s two Northeast Ohio locations are in Canton and Mentor.

“We spent our first five years in business refining our restaurant model and building out the infrastructure and franchise network to support our rapid growth,” Blaze Pizza CEO Jim Mizes said in a statement. “Today, we have the people, processes and systems in place to achieve our goal of becoming a billion-dollar brand by our tenth birthday.”

Launched in 2012, Blaze made $279 million in revenue last year, an increase of 51 percent over the previous year. Forbes called it the fastest-growing restaurant chain ever.

Blaze Pizza features the familiar assembly line setup, similar to Chipotle, where diners go down the line creating their own pies, which are then slid into a huge stone-hearth oven for three minutes.

James was one of Blaze’s original investors in 2012. According to ESPN, he owns about 10 percent of the company along with franchise rights in Chicago and Miami.