By Mario Toneguzzi
MOD Pizza, based in Seattle with more than 400 locations in the U.S. and the UK, is expanding into Canada.
The first MOD location will open late this year in Langford, British Columbia, in the newly developed Belmont Market Shopping Centre – bringing Canadians MOD’s individual artisan-style pizzas which are made on demand where customers can create their own pizzas and salads with any combination of over 30 toppings for one price.
It will open in late November or early December.
The fast casual restaurant brand is being brought to Canada by V.I. Pizza Inc., led by Jim Hayden, Jeff Jefford, and Ken Whitaker, who have deep food industry experience and operate several successful brands across Vancouver Island. Their agreement includes development rights to bring five MOD locations to the island over the next several years. Mike Yasinski, co-founder of Hudsons Canada’s Pub and executive committee member of Restaurants Canada, is also an investor.
“We are confident that MOD will translate well in the Canadian marketplace, and that the V.I. Pizza team will be great partners as we further expand our footprint. With Vancouver Island’s close proximity to our home base of Seattle, this feels like the perfect first step into Canada,” said Scott Svenson, co-founder and CEO of MOD.
“For us, the most important factor in selecting our franchisees is finding those who not only share our business values, but are committed to cultivating the MOD culture in their stores. The V.I. Pizza team are aligned with our belief that taking care of people, and using the platform of MOD to make a positive impact, leads to a successful business. As we continue to grow MOD’s footprint, we hope to identify additional like-minded partners who are interested in helping us expand across Canada.”
The concept was founded in 2008 by entrepreneurs Scott and Ally Svenson, who formerly owned Seattle Coffee Company and sold it to Starbucks in 1998. They also had helped form and grow a restaurant chain in the UK called Carluccio’s.
Today MOD Pizza has 464 locations, in 28 U.S. states and 10 locations in the UK, with an additional 20 plus stores slated to open by the end of this year.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to introduce MOD Pizza to Canada, and to share its compelling combination of superior food quality, value, speed and most importantly, its platform for doing good,” said Jim Hayden, COO of V.I. Pizza Inc. “MOD embodies everything we believe a brand should stand for – a people-first culture, a community driven approach, and a best-in-class business model. We can’t wait to debut the first store in our home market of Vancouver Island.”
MOD Pizza’s SVP of Partnerships John Dikos, who directed MOD’s expansion to Canada, said the company decided a few years ago it had some interest in going further afield from the U.S. and the UK.
“We’ve always had a lot of interest from international restaurateurs wanting to take our brand to other countries. We’ve remained quite disciplined keeping our focus here in the U.S. and over in the UK. But things really seemed to interest us as a leadership team to go further into North America. So we decided to focus on Canada,” said Dikos.
“We decided that Canada would be very interesting. Not without its challenges. Obviously plenty of examples of companies that had their challenges in Canada. We really felt that it would be a worthwhile venture to enter Canada. We started contemplating and preparing for that a couple of years back.”
Dikos said as the co-founders initially put together the concept of MOD Pizza and the team and began testing the operating model, Ally Svenson famously said ‘the world does not need another soulless restaurant chain.”
So a lot of thought went on early on that MOD would be a platform for change, a platform for social good and the owners let that grow organically rather than beginning with a mandate from the top on exactly how that would come to life.
“In the first few years what grew was this really, really interesting focus on our team and on our people. The philosophy is pretty simple. If you take care of and inspire our team, they’ll take care of and inspire the customer and the business will take care of itself,” said Dikos.
On its website the company notes: “MOD Pizza is a business, but our real purpose is creating positive social impact in the lives of our employees and their communities. Yes, we make pizza, but our pizza makes people. Our measure for success isn’t the number of MOD locations – it’s the number of people employed and their well being. It’s something bigger than pizza – it’s a movement. Welcome to MOD.”
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org