That fall, this news outlet talked with three other pizza chains with very similar concepts to Rapid Fired — Seattle-based MOD Pizza, Cleveland-based PizzaFire, and Pasadena, California-based Blaze Pizza — and all said they were planning to enter the Dayton-Cincinnati market in a big way. Representatives of both MOD and PizzaFire said they were planning 10 locations across southwest Ohio.
>> RELATED: MOD Pizza shuts down its Cornerstone of Centerville location (Sept. 14, 2019)
“We’re looking at Centerville, Englewood, the UD area, Kettering … we’re looking all over the Dayton area,” Garyen Denning, managing partner of Lexington, Kentucky-based Cool Dough Development, the southwest Ohio franchisee for MOD Pizza, told us at the time.
>> PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Pizza wars poised to re-ignite with ‘fast-casual’ chains eyeing SW Ohio (October 2015)
MOD Pizza did indeed open two Dayton-area locations in 2017, in Englewood and Centerville. Last weekend, on Saturday, Sept. 14, the chain’s Cornerstone of Centerville location shut down abruptly. Messages left with MOD Pizza corporate officials, and with local franchisee Cool Dough Development, this week seeking comment on the factors that led to the Centerville closing and the future of the Englewood pizza shop, went unanswered. The Englewood MOD Pizza location remains open and operating, business as usual, its employees say.
The MOD Pizza restaurant at the Cornerstone of Centerville development shut down on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019.
Credit: Mark Fisher
Credit: Mark Fisher
PizzaFire, meanwhile, opened a restaurant on Far Hills Avenue in Kettering in October 2016, even before MOD Pizza entered the market. But that store shut down in January 2018, without explanation, and PizzaFire’s plans for a quick expansion in the Dayton-area market have not been revived.
Blaze Pizza opened a location on Mason-Montgomery Road in Mason, which remains open and operating. But it never entered the Dayton-area market.
>> PizzaFire restaurant closure ‘is permanent,’ realtor says (January 2018)
Rapid Fired Pizza stands in stark contrast to its competitors, at least in the Dayton area. The Kettering-based chain — co-founded by Ray Wiley, who also co-founded Hot Head Burritos and who has operated multiple Subway sandwich locations — started fast in 2015, and has stayed in expansion mode, since opening that first Washington Twp. store.
Today, Rapid Fired operates 34 stores in six states, including 10 restaurants in the Dayton area. And it is gearing up to open its 11th local store on Brown Street near the University of Dayton campus, perhaps as early as this month. A 12th Dayton-area location is coming to the Kroger store in Austin Landing in Miami Twp. Outside of Dayton, and in other states, dozens more Rapid Fired Pizzas are in the works, Wiley says.
How has Rapid Fired defended its turf so effectively?
>> Daytonian of the Week: Ray Wiley, founder of Hot Head Burritos and Rapid Fired Pizza (October 2017)
“I think we have done a good job with marketing, which I believe has helped us in competing with MOD and other pizza concepts,” Wiley said. The chain also has adapted effectively, adding family-style pizzas to its original lineup of personal-sized pizzas; obtaining licenses to serve craft beer, wine and margaritas at many of its stores; and adding specialty items such as desserts and a gluten-free, low-carb pizza crust. Delivery is available via DoorDash, GrubHub and Uber Eats at Rapid Fired locations based on availability.
The pace of Rapid Fired’s expansion in the Dayton area will start slowing, however.
>> Rapid Fired Pizza inks deal to serve at Rose Music Center
“We feel we have enough locations in Dayton to service the area,” Wiley said.
The market for quick-serve pizza has not necessarily cooled, the Rapid Fired Pizza co-founder said. “But I will say, with so much pizza in the market, having the right location is very important.”
Asked via email if Rapid Fired had kicked its competition’s collective rear end in the Dayton market, Wiley replied, “Hmmm. Maybe.”
The comment was followed by a smile-face emoji.