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Fast Food

Is Custom Pizza Speedy Enough to Be the Next Fast Food?

Earlier this year, fast-casual A-lister Chipotle (CMG) financed a new Denver restaurant called Pizzeria Locale. Its mandate is to apply the “Chipotle format” to pizza: Instead of tortillas, it’s pizza crust; rather than carnitas and guacamole, the line of toppings features broccolini and prosciutto. Each pie goes into a special oven that rotates, so the pizza cooks evenly and quickly, taking about two minutes, as the Wall Street Journal reported today.

The innovation here isn’t the customization of pizza. You can choose your own toppings at any pizza joint, then sit with your hunger for 15 minutes while it’s being prepped. What’s new is doing it quickly, in the spirit of Chipotle or Subway and at a restaurant with a little more ambiance than Domino’s (DPZ). Plus, there’s a promise of fast food with a gourmet touch.

Chipotle isn’t the only chain looking at this model. In March, Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) invested in a small Los Angeles chain called PizzaRev that promises to let you “craft your own artisan pizza” in about three minutes. PizzaRev, which recently started franchising, has grown to six stores, with seven additional locations planned. Kathy Benning, Buffalo Wild Wings’ executive vice president of global marketing, brand, and business development, described the pizza chain in a statement as “an emerging restaurant concept with high growth potential.”

Speed will be critical for these restaurants to attract walk-in business—say, the time-crunched lunch crowd. One of the joys at Chipotle is a lack of waiting time once you’ve built a burrito; everything’s already been cooked. The most efficient locations average one customer every 11 seconds—a lot less time than waiting even two minutes for a pizza to bake.

When it comes to lunch, busy Americans aren’t known for their patience—unless it’s good enough to be worth the wait.

Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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