40-Year-Old Farm-to-Table Brand Offers Edge over Big-Box Competitors who Mass Produce
January 05, 2017 // Franchising.com // DILLON, Mont. — It’s being called the best thing that could happen to bread in America, for both consumers and investors. Great Harvest Bread Company, a 40-year-old bakery brand that makes bread “the way it was made in the Bible” – milled from whole grains every day on the premises of its local franchised bakeries – is about to become the competition for Panera that it has never had.
The company announced it will begin offering a “hub and spoke” bakery-café franchise opportunity. With the new model, franchisees can purchase a large territory that includes a single Great Harvest Bread Co. bakery operation, and as many café-only units as they desire in surrounding towns. The bakery locations would be equipped with ovens and ample space to produce and deliver the hand-milled breads to the nearby café-only locations throughout the day.
Great Harvest Bread announced they’ll be looking to expand in all areas of the United States, primarily in the Northeast region.
“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,” said CEO Mike Ferretti. “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. Our franchisees will have a bakery café of their own, which maximizes coverage and still allows them to be hyper-local with a personal touch in smaller communities.”
Dubbed “bread heaven” by fanatic customers since 1976, Great Harvest Bread bakeries make their bread from whole grains milled right on the premises – typically a five-hour process that starts every day as early as 2:30 a.m. Emphasizing it is not merely a one-trick pony, Great Harvest Bread represents and offers better breakfasts, better sandwiches, healthier dinners and tastier desserts than common, overblown national chains.
A common site at Great Harvest Bread is customers standing in long lines for breads, muffins and cinnamon rolls in the morning, as well as lunch items such as deli sandwiches including chicken or tuna salad, roast beef and vegetables all made on their choice of fresh bread made that morning.
“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. “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 décor and menu offerings to suit their local markets. While a national franchise, the bakeries are truly local and neighborly, allowing franchisees to add menu items specific to a particular city or region, stay open earlier or later, give their bakery-cafés a true neighborhood look, 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 added.
The total average cost to open a Great Harvest Bread Company bakery-café is about $315,000, compared to more than three times the amount for competing larger footprint concepts, such as Panera. The company is looking to open 25 locations with the new model in the next 15-18 months and is initially targeting the Northeast. While the new bakery-café model is ideally suited for multi-unit operators, single-unit franchises in smaller territories will still be available.
“Should competitors be worried about us? Absolutely,” Keshin 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.”
About Great Harvest Bread Company
Pete and Laura Wakeman founded Great Harvest Bread Company in 1976 after they put themselves through Cornell University by selling bread to local farmers in the nearby towns. The company has since spent the past 40 years perfecting the combination of ingredients to make the freshest and authentic breads and pastries, as well as the newer sandwiches, grain bowls and soups, growing to over 200 locations, all of which continue to mill their own Golden Triangle wheat every morning from scratch. Providing local communities with authentic breads and pastries made fresh daily, the brand is now growing through franchising with a new bakery-café model ideal for multi-unit ownership. Open during three parts of the day—breakfast, lunch and dinner— the menu has grown beyond a wide variety of soft, delicious breads to include soups, sandwiches and grain bowls. To learn about franchising opportunities with Great Harvest Bread Company, go to https://www.greatharvest.com/franchise.