Le Duff America Inc. is planning to expand three of its brands after agreeing in January to acquire the Mimi’s Café chain.
Dallas-based Le Duff America — the North American subsidiary of Paris, France-based Groupe Le Duff — aims to grow its Bruegger’s Bagels, La Madeleine and Brioche Dorée brands.
Paul Carolan, who joined Le Duff America as chief development officer in October, told Nation’s Restaurant News, “Each one of the brands plays a special role for us. They aren’t competing against each other.”
Recently, 60-unit La Madeleine has launched a franchise strategy for the first time and is looking at more airport locations. Brioche Dorée, with 27 units in the United States, nine locations in Canada and nearly 600 restaurants globally, is launching a new street-side prototype in North America and seeking growth in medical centers, hotels and other nontraditional venues. And 297-unit Bruegger's Bagels has opened in several new markets and plans to increase its unit count by 6 percent this year.
Carolan discussed the latest developments at Le Duff — beyond Mimi's Café — with Nation’s Restaurant News.
How many openings are planned?
This coming year we’re going to open up about 33 locations across the country. They are spread between La Madeleine, Brioche and Bruegger’s.
And how many openings for each brand?
Bruegger’s will have about 19 store openings, and we anticipate about nine of them to be company stores, nine franchised and one nontraditional. And then La Madeleine is looking to grow with nontraditional and franchised, with seven company stores, one new franchisee that we signed up in Lubbock, [Texas,] and that will open this year in the third or fourth quarter. And we’ll open a nontraditional [location] in the Atlanta airport, where we’ll have a kiosk and a full store, and another location in Love Field [in Dallas]. We opened our first airport location in Phoenix last year. We also have one planned for DFW airport in 2014.
And for Brioche Dorée?
We’re looking at two phases there. We’re looking at a brand new prototype. The brand is 600-plus deep in Europe. We brought over a new prototype. It’s opening on Kings Street in Toronto. We’re looking at securing locations in Washington, D.C., to start street business. It’s that fast-paced Parisian sandwich, soups and salads. We’re also heading into two hospitals and another airport. Airports and health care are difficult to penetrate in nontraditional, but our food’s freshness cues give us credibility.
Are there any reimaging plans in the works?
We’re working on a new prototype for La Madeleine that showcases the bakery more so you can see the pastry chefs working and see us baking off the breads and croissants. At Bruegger’s, we’re exposing more of the oven and the bagel kettle. You can see the food being prepared, and the eggs are prepared freshly in front of you. It’s all about the freshness cues. We also want to emphasize our Vermont heritage. La Madeleine, which is 30 years old, has a lot of heritage as well.
How is Brioche Dorée positioning itself as a street-side prototype in Toronto?
If you look at nontraditional [locations], what you are looking to do is to grab the essence of the brand and put it in a format that is quick and serviceable to the customer. With Brioche, we are going from primarily a nontraditional footprint in North America, but our heritage is a street business in France. It’s a Parisian street café, so it has community tables and reclaimed wood and an exposed bakery area. It’s a light, comfortable and hip environment.
How about college campuses?
We took Bruegger’s into Virginia Tech [in Blacksburg, Va.,] with an exposed kettle and exposed oven. It’s a phenomenal job. College kids are big foodies — the food channels have educated everybody — which is good for us because you can appreciate what it takes to prepare the food and the handcrafted-ness of it.
What is the latest for the brands in electronic signage?
We’re testing some digital menu boards in Bruegger’s. They do tell you a story. But in Brioche, we’re doing a little more old-school, with chalkboard-type menu boards, keeping with its heritage. We did some tests in Dallas with La Madeleine, but we learned two things: you don’t see as much food and it gives people more time to make a decision. We’ve found digital menu boards are made for speed, and our customers are saying, “Don’t make me move so fast.” We’re going to use it more for promotional and impulse specials. We’ve done the tests, and we’re going more towards the middle.
How large will each of the concepts be?
La Madeleine is targeting at about 4,500 square feet, and we’d love to [have] outside seating in addition to that. That’s trending down a bit. A lot of our stores are 5,500 square feet. The Bruegger’s is around 2,200–2,700 square feet, plus or minus. And at Brioche it’s going to be 2,200–2,500 square feet. The store we have in Toronto is about 2,000–2,200 square feet.