Great Harvest Bread CEO: Competitors should be worried

Great Harvest Bread CEO: Competitors should be worried

Great Harvest Bread Company is now offering a "hub-and-spoke" bakery-cafe franchise opportunity, meaning franchisees can purchase a large territory that includes a single Great Harvest Bread Co. bakery operation, and as many cafe-only units as they desire in surrounding towns, according to a company press release. The bakery locations would be equipped with ovens and ample space to produce and deliver the hand-milled breads to the nearby cafe-only locations throughout the day.

The chain is looking to expand in all areas of the United States, primarily in the Northeast region, said CEO Mike Ferretti.

"All of the other big chains out there in the fast casual bakery segment have one big box location every 10 or 15 miles that doesn't bake from scratch," he said in the release. "These competitors are par-baking from frozen loaves that are mass manufactured by machines. They're not milling the wheat berry in the stores and making everything from scratch like we do.

"With our new model, a Great Harvest Bread Co. franchisee can cover a larger territory for a significantly less investment than competitors like Panera, but still continue to make and serve bread by hand from scratch the way it's supposed to (be). Our franchisees will have a bakery cafe of their own, which maximizes coverage and still allows them to be hyper-local with a personal touch in smaller communities." 

Great Harvest Bread, founded in 1976, makes its bread from whole grains milled on the premises — typically a five-hour process. The chain also offers better breakfasts, better sandwiches, healthier dinners and tastier desserts than common, overblown national chains, according to the release.

"While the rest of the world got used to mass manufacturing of processed bread, Great Harvest continued to mill our own high-quality wheat and bake bread fresh daily," said Great Harvest Bread Company President Eric Keshin in the news release. "Our customers love us for that. We continue to grind wheat berries ordered from local Montana family-owned farms. We curate the outside of the sandwich to the inside. We offer every potential customer a sample slice of whatever bread's available, hot out of the oven. Once they fall in love with our breads, they're back for sandwiches, grain bowls and other menu items. They're hooked. They can't and won't go back to processed."

Another differentiator of Great Harvest Bread Company is a "Freedom Franchise" model in which franchisees can personalize their decor and menu offerings to suit their local markets, Keshin said. While still a national franchise, the bakeries are truly local and neighborly. Franchisees have flexibility to add menu items specific to a particular city or region, as well as being able to close earlier or stay open later, adjust their restaurant design to reflect their neighborhoods or even sell alcohol.

"Our franchisees have always loved the freedom aspect. They get the support they need from us, with flexibility to add elements that they know will appeal to guests in their market. They aren't forced into a cookie-cutter boxed model like most franchises," Keshin said.

The total average cost to open a Great Harvest Bread Company bakery-cafe is about $315,000, compared to more than three times that amount for competing larger footprint concepts, such as Panera, Keshin said.

The company seeks to open 25 locations with the new model in the next 15-18 months and is initially targeting the Northeast. While the new bakery-cafe model is ideally suited for multi-unit operators, single-unit franchises in smaller territories will still be available, Keshin said.

"Should competitors be worried about us? Absolutely," he said. "They are manufacturing in commissaries and focusing on technology, mass and speed. We are baking bread from scratch the right way and offering a franchise opportunity for a significantly lower cost than the big-box guys. We can outperform them with our product and out-cover them with our new model. I've heard people say we have for long been the best-kept secret in the industry. Well, now the secret's out."

Photo source: Great Harvest Bread Co

Topics: Franchising & Growth

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