MOD Pizza is taking its recipe of fancy and customizable yet quickly made pizza across the Pond, in partnership with one of Britain’s most famous billionaires, telecommunications mogul Sir Charles Dunstone.

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MOD Pizza is taking its recipe of fancy and customizable yet quickly made pizza across the Pond, in partnership with one of Britain’s most famous billionaires, telecommunications mogul Sir Charles Dunstone.

The move is a big leap for the young Bellevue company, which is on a venture- capital-fueled ramp-up but has yet to plant its flag in most U.S. states. However, it straddles familiar territory for its founders, Scott and Ally Svenson, who lived in the U.K. for 11 years and created a successful coffee chain that they later sold to Starbucks.

London’s Mod culture, a wave of jazz and rock-imbued dandyism that flourished in the 1950s and ‘’60s, helped at one point to inspire the pizza chain’s name when it was founded here in 2008.

“There’s a coming-home component to it,” said Ally Svenson.

MOD, which stands for “made-on-demand,” belongs in a red-hot segment in the U.S. food business that’s dubbed fast-casual dining. Its business model, epitomized by burrito chain Chipotle, is based on high-quality ingredients and customization while ordering at the counter.

Market-research firm Technomic estimates that in 2014, fast-casual chains accounted for 11 percent of sales among the top 500 U.S. chains, which in turn represent 60 percent of restaurant sales. Growth is rapid: in 2014, fast-casual dining chains grew 13 percent over the previous year to $30 billion in sales.

In the U.K., fast-casual chains are also booming, but lag behind their transatlantic cousins. They represent 6 percent of sales among the top 100 U.K. chains, which also represent about 60 percent of restaurant sales there, Technomic says. There they also compete with increasingly sophisticated pubs.

While the segment is led by a South African-born chicken-restaurant chain called Nando’s, “pizza is growing very quickly,” says Mary Chapman, senior director of product innovation at Technomic.

Concepts imported from the U.S. are also doing well. For example, Five Guys, a burger chain that started in Washington, D.C. It is Dunstone, the famous U.K. billionaire, and his longtime business partner Roger Taylor, who helped it take root in the British Isles, launching the first London restaurant in 2013.

Dunstone, who built a fortune selling cellphones and was once called by a U.K. tabloid the “best-connected man in business,” said in a statement that “MOD will translate extremely well across the United Kingdom.”

MOD has raised more than $70 million from investors and is putting that money to work into creating new stores, fast. As of Friday it had 69 stores in 12 states. It expects to have 100 by the end of the year, mostly by opening new stores itself, but also by partnering up with others.

It also moved in June to a spiffy new digs at the Bellevue Technology Center, where conference rooms are named for items on their menu and after the Svensons’ four sons. About 80 people now work there, Scott Svenson said.

The U.K. foray will be a 50-50 partnership between MOD and Freston Ventures, an entity owned by Dunstone and Taylor, said Svenson, who declined to go into other financial details. The partnership will likely open a “bunch” of stores in the first year of operations, starting in the first half of 2016, Svenson said.

He added that the number of locations might be similar to what Dunstone and Taylor did with Five Guys: perhaps five or six in the beginning, then 20 the second year. Eventually there could be “hundreds” of locations, he said.

Svenson says MOD practices “enlightened capitalism,” which means competing aggressively but also treating employees well. For example, its pays relatively high salaries compared with prevailing restaurant wages, starting at around $11 an hour, although it’s more in some places, says a company spokeswoman. Svenson says that staffers get more leeway in self-expression and decision-making than they typically do in the food retail sector.

Svenson also says MOD aims for social impact. Since its beginning, the company has consciously opened its doors to people without a history of formal employment or who have had run-ins with the law and who’d otherwise be hard to hire. Right now the company is studying how it can translate that vision to the U.K., which has its own set of social issues different from the U.S.

Opening stores in London, perhaps the ultimate global city, gives MOD visibility all over the world, and could be a platform for further expansion. “It’s a door to the rest of Europe, and also to the Middle East,” Svenson said.