• Former Panera franchisee taking Blaze Pizza to Midwest

Walch Hospitality Group LLC, led by John Walch, has signed an agreement to develop six franchise Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza stores in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisc.

The new Wisconsin stores are part of a development plan to build a concentration of Blaze Pizza restaurants in the Midwest that will include Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. The first Wisconsin location is scheduled to open in Milwaukee this summer in a location that has not yet been announced.

"The stores in Wisconsin will be a tent-pole in our expansion throughout the Midwest," said Elise Wetzel, president of Blaze Pizza. "We've had strong interest from franchise candidates in this part of the country and are currently working to identify the best development partners for the brand."

As president of Walch Hospitality Group LLC, Walch brings more than 22 years of restaurant experience to the venture. Most recently, he served as president and operating partner of Carlon Company, an operator of 25 Panera Bread franchise stores in Wisconsin and Illinois that were acquired by the franchisor in 2011.

Walch Hospitality Group is the third area developer in Blaze Pizza's growing franchise network. Blaze Pizza is on track to have 20 area developers under contract by the end of 2013.

Read more about franchising and growth.

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