For Richardson, Texas-based Ampex Brands LLC, the acquisition of the Au Bon Pain chain not only offered an entry point for franchising internationally, it also offers a world of opportunity in re-envisioning the bakery-cafe format.
So said Tabbassum Mumtaz, CEO of Ampex Brands, the new franchisor of the Au Bon Pain concept, which was acquired from a subsidiary of JAB Holding-owned Panera Bread in June.
Following the deal, former Pizza Hut executive Ericka Garza was named brand president of Au Bon Pain, and she immediately hit the road to meet the brand’s restaurant operators.
The irony here is that Garza was previously Pizza Hut’s senior franchise growth leader for Yum Brands, and Ampex Brands is a large Yum franchisee, operating more than 400 units of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.
“She was my franchisor,” Mumtaz says now about Garza, jokingly.
It’s not entirely new for Mumtaz to be on the “’zor” side, as he puts it. Ampex Brands also holds a stake in the Long John Silver’s chain, which was previously owned by Yum Brands.
Ampex also is a franchisee of the 7-Eleven convenience-store chain. With the 171 Au Bon Pain units acquired, Mumtaz’s team will operate about 700-750 restaurants and stores, he said. The acquisition also grants Ampex franchising rights to an additional 131 Au Bon Pain locations.
Au Bon Pain has a large presence in nontraditional settings, like hospitals, colleges and universities and airports. Catering is also a large “business within the business,” Garza said.
The bakery-café concept already has an international presence, including a franchise operator with nearly 70 units in Thailand, for example, and Garza plans to expand the brand’s reach into other countries, including France and Germany.
In the U.S., she plans to grow both traditional and nontraditional restaurants, as well as new formats that will help re-capture Millennials and Gen Z who first fall in love with the brand in college, but then lose access once they leave campus.
“We’re looking at all different types of formats to modernize,” she said. “We find that food trucks and ghost kitchens could be a good solution.”
Both Mumtaz and Garza spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News about their plans for Au Bon Pain and other growth — including whether Ampex Brands is looking for another acquisition.
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]
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