A pizza chain created by a former Starbucks exec just raised another $73 million — here’s why it should terrify Domino’s and Papa John’s

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

  • Fast-casual chain MOD Pizza raised another $73 million, bringing its total equity capital raised to more than $180 million.
  • The chain now has 302 locations, opening roughly 100 stores in the last year alone.
  • Here’s what it’s like to visit.

MOD Pizza has raised another $73 million, bringing the fast-casual pizza chain’s equity capital raised to more than $185 million.

“We’re going to continue to grow at the rate we have been growing – which is really fast,” CEO and co-founder Scott Svenson told Business Insider on Tuesday.

MOD Pizza is one of the fastest-growing chains in the industry, opening 110 locations in 2017. The fast-casual pizza chain now has 302 locations, more than doubling its size over the last two years.

“It’s been fun and exhilarating, but wild is a good way of describing it,” Svenson said. According to the CEO, MOD Pizza plans to continue to open roughly 100 stores a year.

In the most recent round of funding, the fast-casual pizza chain raised $33 million from existing investors, including PWP Growth Equity and Fidelity Management & Research Company. The company also closed on a $40 million credit facility.

Business Insider’s Melia Robinson recently visited a MOD Pizza in Daly City, California. Here’s why she believes traditional pizza delivery chains should be terrified:


Svenson — who has food industry experience as a former Starbucks executive — and his wife, Ally, co-founded MOD Pizza in 2008.

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The chain draws inspiration from fast-casual king Chipotle with its assembly line. Customers can choose from a selection of toppings in front of them.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

The menu also features nine “classics,” or signature pizzas, from a classic cheese to the Dillon James, which features mozzarella, asiago, chopped basil, garlic, and sliced tomatoes.


Employees, called “the MOD squad,” slice and prep ingredients daily to ensure freshness.

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The dough, a proprietary recipe, gets pressed in a machine so it’s as thin as a tortilla.

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An employee takes an order, sauces and “cheeses” the pie, and sends it down the line.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

For about $8, customers can order all the toppings they want on an 11-inch pizza.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Customers with bigger appetites can order a “Mega” pizza, which stacks any two pizza crusts on top of each other. It costs $3 extra and is very Instagram-worthy.

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Then the pizza goes into a gas-fire oven for about 90 seconds. The cook spins the pie with a palette to ensure it cooks evenly and removes it when the crust starts to burn.

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I started with the Mad Dog, a meat lover’s dream pie topped with mozzarella, pepperoni, mild sausage, and ground beef. I finished off my first slice without blinking. The mushrooms tasted fresh from the market, while the sausage packed heat.

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The Tristan, which features mozzarella, asiago, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, and pesto, was understated and delicious. By now, however, I realized the crust was rather tough at the center because of its thinness. It resembled matzah more closely than pizza dough.

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But the cheese was cooked to perfection. Stringy, gooey mozzarella hung from the sides.

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The Crosby, a seasonal pizza topped with mild sausage, roasted asparagus, and a balsamic fig glaze, became an instant favorite. It was sophisticated.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

I’m not a barbecue-pizza lover, so the Caspian did not appeal to me. It has a savory mix of mozzarella, gorgonzola, barbecue chicken, barbecue sauce, and sliced red onions.

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I would eat at MOD again — if not for the affordable, crave-worthy pizza, then to support the company’s people-first mission. What sets MOD apart from its competition is its culture and focus on employees. Svenson said the company put its team before even customers.

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“Our people are at the core of everything we do,” Svenson said. The company hires people from all walks of life, regardless of their criminal history, experience, or disability.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Most of the employees I met in Daly City were local community-college students. It was a first job for some. MOD pays, on average, 25% above the local, federal, and state minimum wage.


Svenson sees MOD “as a bridge into” where employees “want to be in life.” It also happens to be a good place to grab a pizza.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider