Paris Baguette’s chief development officer on the brand’s growth



MOONACHIE, NJ — Paris Baguette, a global bakery cafe franchise, has been on the rise in the US and abroad. The company has continued its expansion in the states, such as opening the first Paris Baguette location in Connecticut, and Mark Mele, chief development officer, is leading the charge in growing this brand.

Mele joined Paris Baguette in 2020 and began building a foundation that would spur the brand forward over the next few years.

“We were in the pandemic, and I thought, for me being a franchise guy for over 37 years, I’m not sure how the pandemic is going to affect what I’m about to put in place, but let me just go ahead and start to build and put a foundation in place for franchising,” he said.

While the brand was already franchising before Mele’s arrival, Paris Baguette needed work in the three main funnels of franchise development: franchise sales, real estate and construction. The team got to work setting up the support needed for growth.

The foundation Mele created has held strong as Paris Baguette bounced back in Q1 of 2021 with high franchise sales quarter after quarter.

“Although we didn’t have a lot of openings in 2021 and 2022, we opened 23 or 24 units, and now, we’ve done that just through half of this year,” Mele said. “So, we’ve steadily built momentum.”

However, Mele’s foundation was not the only key to the flourishing franchising at Paris Baguette. Placing the right people in the right places made all the difference, as well as establishing a process built on that foundation.

“We needed to have the processes in place in order to scale and have greater predictability into our sales, real estate and construction pipeline,” Mele said. “Predictability is key when we have 1,000 units to get to by the end of the decade. That’s a really heavy lift and we need to have a lot of structure and a lot of process in place … I didn’t focus the team on much of anything else.”

After deciding to create change three years ago, the brand’s expansion has increased significantly. Rather than opening five to ten cafes per year, Paris Baguette is thinking in terms of opening 50 to 60, and ultimately getting 100 new locations per year. The company anticipates it will execute 20 to 25 new franchise agreements each month until the end of the year.

“The momentum is there, and the brand has a lot of recognition,” Mele said. “We like the fact that we have this cult-like following, and Paris Baguette is making such a big impact on the bakery cafe space. There’s nothing easy about franchising today, especially in this economy, but with a brand that has global recognition, it makes it a lot easier.”

Mele has also built a team over the past two years to be able to support the company’s growing number of franchises. In bringing on support such as Bill Zuccarello, VP of construction and design, the Paris Baguette team is better equipped to support its developing franchises and franchise owners.

“You have to have a strong operational team, financial team and HR team in place to be able to support people because a lot of franchisees and their general managers haven’t operated a bakery cafe before,” Mele said. “That’s what we do.”

From bringing in franchisees for owner training in New Jersey to continuing that support through the opening of the franchise, the Paris Baguette team continues to provide support in various ways.

“You can’t successfully have a franchise operation without having the support piece in place,” Mele said. “It’s really the biggest piece to this. Construction is hard and finding the right real estate is hard, but once the doors open, the operational piece is key. That’s when it matters the most because your guest is inside the cafe. You’ve got to do it right.”

This momentum is spurring innovation such as the 3.0 prototype, which opened the door for more franchisees due to its visual appeal to customers. The remodel began right before the start of the pandemic and focused on not only the front of the house but also on providing space to work in the kitchen.

“We actually expanded the kitchen and put in several pieces of equipment to make sure that the back of the house workers had enough space to do their job,” Mele said.

After conducting focus groups and working with an advertising agency and architecture firm, Paris Baguette was able to bring a new vision to its upcoming locations. Using European accents and details such as penny tile, wood tones and the signature blue hue of Paris Baguette, the brand revamped its bakery to a more classic style.

“It looks like something you’d see on the streets of Paris or in different parts of Europe when you walk in,” Mele said.

Rather than hiding the kitchen in the back of the location, the new open kitchen concept grants customers a unique experience upon entering the 3,000-sq.-ft. cafes.

With a foundation to support franchisees, a team ready to support the next stage of growth and a new in-cafe experience, Paris Baguette is moving on up in the bakery cafe space, one new location at a time.

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