When MOD Pizza came to town from Seattle just over a year ago, I wondered about the similarity between the name of the rapidly expanding pizza chain and Modmarket, Denver's own fast-casual pizza, salad and sandwich empire. So I checked with Modmarket co-founder Anthony Pigliacampo, who told me, "We believe customers are smart enough to note the difference between Modmarket and MOD Pizza. Our restaurants are quite different and while our names share a few letters, we don't think customers will be confused and wish them well as they open stores in Colorado."
I agree with Pigliacampo — customers are smart enough to note the difference. But apparently trademark experts are even smarter, because they determined that the names of the restaurants are too similar. And since MOD Pizza pulled the playground tactic of "I was here first," Modmarket got shoved off the swing set and must change its name. Over the coming months, all Modmarket locations will become Modern Market Farm Fresh Eateries (that last part was already part of the chain's branding).
News of the settlement was originally announced in August, but the re-branding is now beginning. Here's the explanation of the change, according to the Modmarket, er, Modern Market website:
The good news is that when asked what Modmarket meant, our response has always been “modern market”, so this is more of an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary change. The bad news is, hmmm, I guess there isn’t any. We are still the same company serving healthy, delicious food made from amazing ingredients. All that really changes are some signs and t-shirts for our team.
The company is at least taking a light-hearted approach to the shift; each of the sixteen current locations in Colorado and Texas will host a party for the signage swap (see the Modmarket website for more information). Four more stores currently under construction will open with the new name. The company also has plans to open in California, Arizona and Washington, D.C., over the next year.
I understand that protecting a trademark is important in maintaining a unified brand presence for customers and that MOD Pizza really was there first and has a right to protect its brand — but dammit, Modmarket was one of our own in a long list of fast-casual names that Denver has incubated and then sent out into the world to dominate other markets. Names like Chipotle, Qdoba, Smashburger, Mad Greens and Noodles & Co. If bullies from Seattle can come here and push around the local kids, what does that mean for our homegrown breweries, steakhouses and coffee roasters?
Ultimately, though, consumers will just have to swallow hard and accept the change. After all, the food will not be changing — which is comforting for those who enjoy the homegrown chain's brick-oven pies and healthy salads. MOD Pizza has one outlet in the metro area, with another in Colorado Springs and a third on the way in Castle Rock. If you're a fan of voting with your wallet, it's easy enough to avoid MOD in favor of Modern Market, which has a dozen Colorado eateries. But in the business world, it's survival of the fittest, so no matter the name, customers will gravitate to the Mod that makes the best pizza.
Don't care for the name Modern Market? If you have a suggestion for a better name, leave it in the comments section below.