Pulse.ng logo
Go

Strategy We tried pizza from some of the hottest fast-casual chains — and the winner was clear

  • Published:

Fast-casual pizza is one of the fastest-growing categories of food. We tried pizza from three top chains: Blaze Pizza, MOD Pizza, and Pieology.

Who makes the best pizza: Blaze Pizza, MOD Pizza, or Pieology? play

Who makes the best pizza: Blaze Pizza, MOD Pizza, or Pieology?

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)

About one in eight Americans eat pizza on any given day. And an increasing number of them are ditching legacy brands like Domino's and Pizza Hut for innovative fast-casual chains.

Fast-casual pizza is one of the fastest-growing categories of food, a 2016 report from Technomic found. Chains like Blaze Pizza, MOD Pizza, and Pieology create made-to-order personal pies on an assembly line, much like Chipotle, and bake them on an open flame.

In honor of National Pizza Day, we taste-tested pizzas from those three chains — and the winner was clear.

Fast-casual pizza should terrify legacy brands like Domino's, Pizza Hut, and Papa John's.

Fast-casual pizza should terrify legacy brands like Domino's, Pizza Hut, and Papa John's. play

Fast-casual pizza should terrify legacy brands like Domino's, Pizza Hut, and Papa John's.

(Facebook/BlazePizza)

Three of the five fastest-growing restaurant chains in 2016 were fast-casual pizza concepts, according to Technomic. Their sales accounted for 37% of US fast-casual business last year.



Not all fast-casual pizza is created alike. We stopped into the three fastest-growing chains.

Not all fast-casual pizza is created alike. We stopped into the three fastest-growing chains. play

Not all fast-casual pizza is created alike. We stopped into the three fastest-growing chains.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)


Our test had two categories: the classic cheese pizza and a meat-lover's rendition.

Our test had two categories: the classic cheese pizza and a meat-lover's rendition. play

Our test had two categories: the classic cheese pizza and a meat-lover's rendition.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)


This cheesy beauty came from Pieology, the fastest-growing restaurant in the US in 2015. Cheeses arrive in wheels and blocks and are grated fresh, Pieology says.

This cheesy beauty came from Pieology, the fastest-growing restaurant in the US in 2015. Cheeses arrive in wheels and blocks and are grated fresh, Pieology says. play

This cheesy beauty came from Pieology, the fastest-growing restaurant in the US in 2015. Cheeses arrive in wheels and blocks and are grated fresh, Pieology says.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)

Source: Pieology



The crust lifts off the plate around the edges, making the slice easy to hold. But it's still thin and flavorless. The right amount of sauce and a whole-milk mozzarella saved this slice.

The crust lifts off the plate around the edges, making the slice easy to hold. But it's still thin and flavorless. The right amount of sauce and a whole-milk mozzarella saved this slice. play

The crust lifts off the plate around the edges, making the slice easy to hold. But it's still thin and flavorless. The right amount of sauce and a whole-milk mozzarella saved this slice.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)


Next up is Blaze Pizza, which was earlier this year named the fastest-growing restaurant ever after going from two to 200 locations in four years. It's backed by LeBron James.

Next up is Blaze Pizza, which was earlier this year named the fastest-growing restaurant ever after going from two to 200 locations in four years. It's backed by LeBron James. play

Next up is Blaze Pizza, which was earlier this year named the fastest-growing restaurant ever after going from two to 200 locations in four years. It's backed by LeBron James.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)

In 2015, James walked away from a $14 million endorsement deal with McDonald's to become part of Blaze Pizza's marketing campaigns. He's also an early investor in the chain.



The sauce was so overpowered by oregano that I couldn't taste the mozzarella, which hardly pulled apart.

The sauce was so overpowered by oregano that I couldn't taste the mozzarella, which hardly pulled apart. play

The sauce was so overpowered by oregano that I couldn't taste the mozzarella, which hardly pulled apart.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)

Isn't that all anyone wants in life — to watch cheese cascading over the edges of a slice of pizza?



My salvation appeared to be this cheesy pie from MOD Pizza. Founded by a former Starbucks executive in 2008, the chain has more than doubled in size over the past year.

My salvation appeared to be this cheesy pie from MOD Pizza. Founded by a former Starbucks executive in 2008, the chain has more than doubled in size over the past year. play

My salvation appeared to be this cheesy pie from MOD Pizza. Founded by a former Starbucks executive in 2008, the chain has more than doubled in size over the past year.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)


Gooey mozzarella was cooked to perfection. And look at those air bubbles in the crust.

Gooey mozzarella was cooked to perfection. And look at those air bubbles in the crust. play

Gooey mozzarella was cooked to perfection. And look at those air bubbles in the crust.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)


While the copious amounts of cheese did not disappoint, the crust couldn't hold its weight. The slice reminded me of the melting clocks in a Salvador Dali painting.

While the copious amounts of cheese did not disappoint, the crust couldn't hold its weight. The slice reminded me of the melting clocks in a Salvador Dali painting. play

While the copious amounts of cheese did not disappoint, the crust couldn't hold its weight. The slice reminded me of the melting clocks in a Salvador Dali painting.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)


Moving onto the meat-lover's pizza round, I felt confident that Pieology and MOD Pizza would duke it out for the title. And because I'm a meat-lover's-pizza fiend, the stakes were high.

Moving onto the meat-lover's pizza round, I felt confident that Pieology and MOD Pizza would duke it out for the title. And because I'm a meat-lover's-pizza fiend, the stakes were high. play

Moving onto the meat-lover's pizza round, I felt confident that Pieology and MOD Pizza would duke it out for the title. And because I'm a meat-lover's-pizza fiend, the stakes were high.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)


Pieology's "butcher's choice" pizza looked great from the start, with glistening pepperoni slices and a strong cheese-to-topping ratio. Again, the crust curled at the edges.

Pieology's "butcher's choice" pizza looked great from the start, with glistening pepperoni slices and a strong cheese-to-topping ratio. Again, the crust curled at the edges. play

Pieology's "butcher's choice" pizza looked great from the start, with glistening pepperoni slices and a strong cheese-to-topping ratio. Again, the crust curled at the edges.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)


When I bit in, a charcoal taste filled my mouth. I turned over the slice and discovered the bottom was burned black. The toppings were delicious, but it wasn't enough.

When I bit in, a charcoal taste filled my mouth. I turned over the slice and discovered the bottom was burned black. The toppings were delicious, but it wasn't enough. play

When I bit in, a charcoal taste filled my mouth. I turned over the slice and discovered the bottom was burned black. The toppings were delicious, but it wasn't enough.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)


I wondered if the "meat eater" from Blaze Pizza could make a comeback in the second half. It was the only pie to feature red onions, which I like, and meatballs instead of sausage.

I wondered if the "meat eater" from Blaze Pizza could make a comeback in the second half. It was the only pie to feature red onions, which I like, and meatballs instead of sausage. play

I wondered if the "meat eater" from Blaze Pizza could make a comeback in the second half. It was the only pie to feature red onions, which I like, and meatballs instead of sausage.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)


An overly aromatic, slightly bitter sauce was again Blaze Pizza's downfall. While the red onion added a nice crunch, the pepperoni and meatballs tasted bland. Sorry, LeBron.

An overly aromatic, slightly bitter sauce was again Blaze Pizza's downfall. While the red onion added a nice crunch, the pepperoni and meatballs tasted bland. Sorry, LeBron. play

An overly aromatic, slightly bitter sauce was again Blaze Pizza's downfall. While the red onion added a nice crunch, the pepperoni and meatballs tasted bland. Sorry, LeBron.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)


MOD Pizza's "mad dog" comes with pepperoni, ground beef, and mild sausage. The toppings appeared to be swimming in pools of melted mozzarella.

MOD Pizza's "mad dog" comes with pepperoni, ground beef, and mild sausage. The toppings appeared to be swimming in pools of melted mozzarella. play

MOD Pizza's "mad dog" comes with pepperoni, ground beef, and mild sausage. The toppings appeared to be swimming in pools of melted mozzarella.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)


The mad dog was unparalleled. Though I could have used a bit more sauce, a perfect storm of flavorful meats, abundant cheese, and a springy crust made this slice easy to devour.

The mad dog was unparalleled. Though I could have used a bit more sauce, a perfect storm of flavorful meats, abundant cheese, and a springy crust made this slice easy to devour. play

The mad dog was unparalleled. Though I could have used a bit more sauce, a perfect storm of flavorful meats, abundant cheese, and a springy crust made this slice easy to devour.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)


Overall, Pieology's cheese was heavenly, Blaze Pizza had an overpowering sauce, and MOD Pizza excelled in two core criteria: the crust and the bake.

Overall, Pieology's cheese was heavenly, Blaze Pizza had an overpowering sauce, and MOD Pizza excelled in two core criteria: the crust and the bake. play

Overall, Pieology's cheese was heavenly, Blaze Pizza had an overpowering sauce, and MOD Pizza excelled in two core criteria: the crust and the bake.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)

Here's how much I spent:

Pieology: $17.05

Blaze Pizza: $16.82

MOD Pizza: $18.42



The winner was unmistakable.

The winner was unmistakable. play

The winner was unmistakable.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)


MOD Pizza crushed the competition.

MOD Pizza crushed the competition. play

MOD Pizza crushed the competition.

(Melia Robinson/Business Insider)