The 26-unit casual-dining chain Famous Toastery is poised to grow out of its headquarters market of Charlotte, N.C., expand farther into Virginia and Tennessee after facing tough times in the wake of the pandemic. After a spate of closings and a franchisee bankruptcy, the brand sustained its scratch-kitchen model and went on to open three new locations in 2020 as well as its first ghost kitchen, based in Warrington, Va.
Like many full-service restaurants, it took the chain a little while to find its bearings in 2020. CEO and founder Robert Maynard notes that Famous Toastery faced multiple challenges — from labor shortages to location closings — in the past year and a half. Some of the adjustments required during this pressing time included moving to paper menus and then QR codes, contactless payment and limited menu items. The most important advancement was the launch of an online ordering platform, which was rolled out in four days.
“I’m looking at [the past year and a half] as a positive thing now — not negative. A lot of people and brands go through this. It’s not about what happened. It’s how you move the brand forward. Own your wins and own your failures,” says Maynard. “We keep winning ‘Best of’ [accolades] for breakfasts and franchising, even during COVID. When it comes to food and what we do, we haven’t sacrificed food for profit. We haven’t sacrificed quality, and we won’t.”
Maynard’s strategy for Famous Toastery has always been to focus on the franchisees and the customers, and he wants to emphasize how he can elevate that growth model for the individuals investing with Famous Toastery. The chain plans to focus on adding franchisees rather than corporate-owned stores. The brand’s CFO Adam Gordon owns two locations and Executive Chef Julio Heras owns two locations as well.
“We are focusing on opening new locations with franchise partners rather than growing corporately,” Maynard says. “We want everyone to have a profit and to figure out their goals and how to hit their goals. We didn’t have that before, and our role in the corporate office is to help support our franchisees to achieve those goals.”
With a marketing plan to saturate the Carolinas, Virginia and Tennessee, Maynard’s vision is to sell eight to 10 deals in 2022 and to feasibly open four to five restaurants next year. Looking long-term into 2024, the brand is aiming to have 50 locations open.
North Carolina’s market will come first, as “a lot of people know us here,” Maynard explained. The rollout strategy is to first target Charlotte, then the Triangle, then the mountains and then any other areas of possibility.
Maynard stressed the importance of relaunching in a local market, as it will solidify brand recognition and get the word out that Famous Toastery is franchising. He plans to play an active role in the openings and hold events to familiarize people with the brand’s mission and growth strategy.