I ate at MOD Pizza, America's fastest-growing restaurant chain, and saw why it's miles ahead of the competition
Irene Jiang / Business Insider
- MOD Pizza is America's fastest-growing restaurant chain.
- I went to the MOD Pizza in Bellevue, Washington, to see what the dining experience was like.
- I was impressed by the food's customizability, the ingredients' freshness and quality, and the efficient yet personal assembly-line format.
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Seattle-based MOD Pizza is the fastest-growing restaurant chain in America in terms of systemwide sales, according to Nation's Restaurant News. It saw 44.7% sales growth in 2018.
Founded in 2008 by wife-and-husband duo Ally and Scott Svenson, MOD Pizza came to life after the couple noticed a need for casual, speedy, and healthy pizza options.
As a teenager, I'd eaten at the location in my hometown's strip mall, way back when MOD was a local Seattle chain. It was exciting because it was the first pizza place I'd been to that served fully customizable personal pizzas.
Since then, MOD has become an international phenomenon, with over 400 locations across the US and the UK. It has also fully embraced a purpose-driven business model, with a focus on hiring for impact and investing in its staff's professional growth.
It had been years since I'd last eaten at a MOD Pizza, so when I went home to Seattle, I decided to stop on in and investigate what was behind its meteoric rise in popularity:
I made my way to the MOD Pizza in Bellevue, which is one of the chain's oldest locations.
To avoid the crowds, I went soon after the restaurant opened for the day.
But I wasn't even the first customer.
A board at the door advertised local community events and arts.
The menu emphasized the pizzas' customizability.
You can create your own pizza from scratch, or you can select from pre-designed combinations. It's priced by size, so toppings don't cost extra.
Each MOD location sells local brands of beer.
The dough is prepared by a MOD team member and stored in racks ready for immediate use.
At the line, a friendly and helpful team member assembled my pizza based on what I asked for.
I chose a red sauce and mozzarella base with pepperoni, spicy chicken sausage, artichokes, mushrooms, and onions.
I had a hard time choosing because I wanted to put everything on my pizza.
Luckily, when I asked for advice, my pizza artist told me she liked to "keep it simple." I tried.
I did ask for all the spices, though: salt and pepper, rosemary, and oregano.
The pan man slid my pizza into the oven.
I also ordered a simple salad with balsamic dressing.
Tragically, I didn't realize until later that my salad, like my pizza, was completely customizable.
At checkout, I grabbed a No Name Cake and a cup of the Alaskan pale ale that was on tap. I declined to finish my pizza with a drizzle of sauce.
By the time I was done ordering, the joint had already begun to fill up.
My order included a custom MOD pizza, garlic strips, an entree-size simple salad, a No Name Cake, and an Alaskan pale ale.
MOD PIZZA — I started with the pizza, which was still hot from the oven.
The crust was thin but crispy, and the toppings were generous.
Each slice was heavy with toppings, but it didn't feel overloaded with grease or carbs.
I was impressed by how light yet sturdy the crust was, as well as by how high-quality the individual toppings were.
I wasn't sure if artichoke was the right call for a red sauce pizza. On my next trip, I might experiment with different toppings.
But aside from the artichoke, the pizza tasted good and felt healthy.
GARLIC STRIPS — This was basically a round of pizza dough slathered with garlic topping, then baked.
The strips were surprisingly thin and light, although I'm not sure what I expected.
It had been made from the same dough as the pizza's crust.
I chose a pesto dipping sauce to go with the strips.
The strips weren't quite as bready as I wanted them to be, but the garlic flavor was perfect, and pesto was definitely the right choice of sauce.
SIMPLE SALAD — I regretted not customizing my salad, because all that was in this were mixed greens, roasted red peppers, and asiago cheese.
But I really should have had more faith in MOD.
These ingredients actually worked quite well together. It was simple, yes, but satisfying.
NO NAME CAKE — Finally, it was time for dessert.
I'm not sure why MOD didn't bother giving the No Name cake a name. It's essentially an elevated Hostess cake. I'd call it the "MOD-ified Ding Dong."
It's a moist, pillowy chocolate cake filled with creme and coated in chocolate.
The chocolate on the outside was a bit dry, but the cake inside was practically juicy. I wasn't all that sure about the creme inside — I would have preferred more chocolate. But I was far from disappointed.
I had been so preoccupied with my food that I almost forgot about my beer.
DRAFT BEER — It was cold, crisp, and paired well with the carbs on my plate.
I struggled to make it through my beer, as I'd ordered enough food for two people. Next time, I'll bring a friend.
Every aspect of my MOD experience impressed me. The assembly line format allows employees to be experts at their jobs. The layout of the restaurant streamlines the dining process from ordering to clean-up. But most importantly, the food was fresh, delicious, and made me feel good.
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