La Madeleine Country French Café opened its first franchised unit this month in Lubbock, Texas, in an updated fast-casual model the Le Duff America Inc. brand is employing in newer restaurants.

A second franchised unit in the same format will open in El Paso, Texas, during the first week of April, said Paul Carolan, Dallas-based Le Duff America’s chief development officer.

The prototype was developed in two company locations opened in the past year in Fort Worth and Flower Mound, Texas, he said. La Madeleine has 67 corporate units.

The Lubbock unit continues the brand’s shift away from a tray-based cafeteria-style service line to fully fast casual.

“Our customers today have told us there really isn’t a need anymore for tray service, so our tray service is no longer there,” Carolan said. “We view ourselves as a polished fast-casual bakery-café.”

Orders are placed along a queue, where guests can see food prepared, and a staff member delivers items to customers’ tables after they have filled their own drinks and gathered serviceware.

“The difference between this and the historical existing group of restaurants are an updated décor package to today’s look and feel,” Carolan said.

“We’ve added community tables, we’ve added a wine room and a high-top wine table,” he explained. “We took the fireplace and made one side more formal and the other more casual. If you think of our restaurants as a French country home, we’ve just come in and remodeled it.”

Carolan defined the new look as “lighter and more contemporary,” with some softer seating options. The restaurant retains features like rustic wood beams and a warm color palette.

The new format emphasizes beverage sales, including recently introduced proprietary wines.

“We’ve just introduced our own wines, so we have our own private-label wines from France,” Carolan said.

La Madeleine now has three private-label offerings and additional brands in a dispensing system, he said. The next level in the beverage program will be to integrate wine into an espresso bar.

The Lubbock restaurant covers 4,800 square feet with 120 seats inside and 25 to 30 seats on a patio.

“Our sweet spot is a minimum of 4,500 square feet,” Carolan noted, with the same seating targets.

While La Madeleine in the past two years conducted electronic menu board tests, the brand has settled on a chalkboard-style printed format.

“We tested the electronic [menus], and it really wasn’t who we were,” Carolan said. “We want you to come in and be in a ‘decompression zone,’ with time to pause and relax. The electronic boards were a little too modern.”

The new restaurants continue to feature the brand’s bakery cases, Carolan said.  

“We wanted to keep the soul of La Madeleine in the restaurant,” he said. “A lot of times you can make it so slick that the restaurants don’t have any soul to them; they are just functional. What is cool about this store in Lubbock: We’ve kept that soul. You get the warm feeling that this is a very special place.”

Le Madeleine is owned by Le Duff America, a division of France-based Groupe Le Duff that also owns Mimi’s Café, Bruegger’s Bagels and Brioche Dorée.

Contact Ron Ruggless at ronald.ruggless@penton.com.
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