La Madeleine French Country Café debuted a franchise program Monday, the first in the Dallas-based bakery-café concept’s 28-year history.
The first prototype in the franchise program will open in late October in Dallas’ NorthPark Mall, with several more new units planned, the company said.
“It’s a terrific time [to start franchising],” said Phil Costner, who recently was named president and chief operating officer of La Madeleine. “We’ve spent the past three and a half years strengthening the brand across the board. The box economics are a lot stronger. We’ve reduced the cost of building a La Madeleine a significant amount, and we’ve simplified the operation greatly.”
La Madeleine, a division of Group Le Duff, operates 60 bakery-cafés in Georgia, Louisiana and Texas, as well as the Washington, D.C., area. The company expects new franchised units to require a capital investment of $800,000 to $1.25 million, with an initial franchise fee of $40,000.
Chris Cheek, vice president of franchise development at Group Le Duff, said La Madeleine is well positioned in the restaurant industry.
“When you think about the bakery-café segment of fast-casual, it has been one of the best performers in the industry on a comp-store sales growth comparison, as diners continue to trade down from casual dining to fast casual,” Cheek said.
Phil Costner discusses La Madeleine’s franchise program with NRN; story continues on page 2
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La Madeleine has a check average of $11.50, Costner said. Best-sellers include tomato-basil soup, balsamic-marinated chicken Caesar salad and desserts such as sacher torte.
Cheek added that La Madeleine “has been around for 28 years, so it’s very, very proven. We’ve worked to refine our understanding of the guest, make the operational side of business more logical and scalable and, without degrading the product, making the operations simpler.”
Costner said the first prototype store in NorthPark Mall has moved from a 765-square-foot space with corridor seating to about 2,000 square feet.
Units scheduled to open in 2012 in Tulsa, Okla., and Silver Springs, Md., will be close to the prototypical franchise unit, Costner said. They will cover 3,500 square feet in street or lifestyle center locations. Another new unit is scheduled for Tyson Corner Mall in Virginia.
“Our mall prototype tends to be closer to 2,000 to 2,500 square feet,” Costner added. “That’s really dependent upon seating. In some malls, seating is in traffic corridors.”
La Madeleine has been working on the design of the prototype for the past year and a half, and spent three years assessing the concept’s core guests, Costner said.
“The cool thing about our prototype is that we’ve designed it in modules, so when the shape or actual size of a particular location is unique, it’s just a matter of moving around modules as opposed to starting from scratch and redesigning the whole thing,” Costner said.
Many of the prototype’s details were tested in three remodeled cafés in the Dallas area, Costner said, “and all three have met with tremendous results.”
Cheek of Group Le Duff, which acquired Bruegger’s Enterprises Inc. earlier this year, said La Madeleine also will look at franchising in nontraditional locations, such as airports, universities, military bases and travel plazas.
“We recognized those are not only good billboard locations, but they can be very attractive from an ROI perspective,” Cheek said.
La Madeleine will offer minimum three-unit development commitments and exclusive territories, but no master or sub-franchising agreements, he said.
In addition to La Madeleine, Group Le Duff and its North American Subsidiary, Le Duff America Inc., operate the brand Ristorante del Arte, Brioche Dorée, Au Pain Doré, Bruegger’s and Timothy’s World Coffee brands.
In addition to its restaurant operations, Group Le Duff is a supplier of frozen breads and pastries to the wholesale market through subsidiaries Bridor Inc., with four plants supplying Canada and the United States, and Bridor France, which supplies the French and European markets.