MOD Pizza Reportedly Weighs Bankruptcy After Shuttering 26 Locations This Year

MOD Pizza, one of Seattle's hometown heroes in the fast-casual restaurant scene, is reportedly exploring bankruptcy options while simultaneously searching for a buyer. After launching in 2008 as a family-owned enterprise, it eventually morphed into a nationwide chain with 553 locations by the end of 2023. That was a marked increase from the previous year in both physical locations and sales revenue, which reached $699.2 million, as reported by Technomic (via Nation's Restaurant News). But seemingly abrupt changes were on the way. 

By early 2024, MOD Pizza had a new CEO and 26 store closures, due to underperforming locations across at least 10 states and Washington D.C. Five were in California and two were located in its home-base of Washington State. April brought a new chief marketing officer, but by early July, the Wall Street Journal reported the company had retained financial and legal advisors to explore future options, including potential bankruptcy. 

When it comes to major pizza chains, MOD is considered one of the biggest in the fast-casual category. The company's potential loss of viability could mean a big blow to employees and loyal customers. As part of the popular build-your-own pizza concept, MOD has thrived with a modern, cutting-edge persona and millennial-friendly ambiance. But there's more to the MOD Pizza story, including its foundational focus on positive social impact, plus a slew of core food-related commitments aligning with perspectives of newer generations. 

The MOD Squad approach to fast-casual pizza

As of yet, details of MOD Pizza's current financial woes and potential solutions are undisclosed, with the company citing an ongoing process with "all options" on the table, according to a MOD spokesperson. Many people are rooting for a positive outcome, including customers and employees, particularly those benefiting from MOD's commitment to "impact hiring." The company-dubbed MOD Squad team comprises people who commonly face employment barriers, such as previously incarcerated individuals and those with developmental, intellectual, or physical disabilities.

A wide range of community-based nonprofits are involved in MOD's employment activism, including the National Restaurant Association's Educational Foundation and the FareStart program, which provides food-related career pathways to help individuals move out of poverty, while also feeding the community in creative ways. MOD directly engages with social impact partners who effect changes linked to the food industry, including issues such as animal ethics, fair labor principles, and environment. MOD fundraising projects have a wide community reach, addressing concerns such as child hunger, mental health awareness, and suicide prevention.

MOD Pizza competitors in the fast-casual world of "build your own" pizzas are apparently struggling as well, or at least restructuring with new approaches. That reportedly includes 2023 store closures by Pieology and the LeBron James-backed Blaze Pizza. Additional multi-venue restaurant chains have resorted to bankruptcy protection in 2024, including Rubio's, as well as Red Lobster's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. Other well-known brands are instead hoping for a turnaround upon closing underperforming stores.