With the help of SMB Franchise Advisors, the owners of Mr. Mac’s discovered what it takes to turn a burgeoning business into a full-fledged franchise.
When Patrick Cain was building a career as an executive in the retail fashion industry, he was told consumers have an emotional connection to certain products. “At the time, I remember thinking that was total marketing nonsense,” he said.
At least, that was until he started Mr. Mac’s Macaroni and Cheese in New Hampshire five years ago with his sister, Valerie Anderson. Now, he’s a believer. “I think I had that ‘a-ha’ moment when an older gentleman came into our restaurant and said, ‘This is just how my mom used to make it,’” Cain recalls. “Mac and cheese is the quintessential comfort food for so many people. People will always have a connection to it for that reason.”
Year by year, the restaurant-novice’s gourmet mac and cheese grew in popularity. Positive reviews were rushing in from local publications. They were featured on a regional TV show out of Boston, “Phantom Gourmet.” Soon, Mr. Mac’s had elevated to a near cult-like following throughout the entire New England area.
Fast-forward five years, to a point where the co-founders believed the brand was established enough to expand. But the challenge was where to begin. How would they keep the local, independent feel? As the business grew, could they maintain the quality and integrity of both the food and the restaurant's commitment to its community?
“We decided it was time to grow, so we started looking into new opportunities. We have this very unique market, and we think we’re some of the best at it. We figured we’d take advantage of this growing niche,” Cain said. “That’s why we decided to explore the possibility of franchising.”
Cain admits that he was initially intimidated by the world franchising. Unsure of where, or how, to begin, Cain and his sister approached the experts—SMB Franchise Advisors. Cain had met Steve Beagelman, the president and CEO of SMB Franchise Advisors, a couple years ago while attending the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show in New York, an annual trade show. Upon meeting Beagelman the two discussed growth plans and Cain was invited to attend SMB client events to learn more about franchising. He ended up accepting one of those invitations and had the opportunity to speak with some of the firm’s existing clients; he knew he’d found the resources Mr. Mac’s needed to take the brand to next level.
In October 2015, Mr. Mac’s engaged with SMB under a full-service launch into franchising. Director of Marketing & Brand Development for SMB Dawn Abbamondi explained that the scope of work with Mr. Mac’s has included everything from competitive research and analysis to the creation of business terms and its Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD).
SMB is also in the process of developing the franchise operations manual, and they led the charge on content creation for the brand’s new franchising website.
“Our focus for the website has been to help them attract franchise candidates who are financially and operationally qualified; people who will also uphold and expand their culture, which is such an integral part of this brand,” Abbamondi said. “The website, as with most franchises today, will be one of their greatest recruitment tools, so we knew it would be extremely important to get it right.”
As spelled out in the brand’s vision and mission statements, Mr. Mac’s envisions an ownership opportunity for franchisees that will be a way of life for owners. The brand also hopes that that passion will trickle down to every single employee and customer, sharing happiness, satisfaction and good memories with every skillet of gourmet macaroni and cheese served, while making the communities in which they serve a better place.
“Beyond having a great product and showing growth potential, it’s really important for us as a team to believe in a brand before launching it into franchising,” Abbamondi said. “The saying ‘it’s not personal, it’s business’ doesn’t apply to Mr. Mac’s. With them, if it isn’t personal, it’s not business. And that’s what we love about them. Their passion for what they do is contagious.”
In assisting the Mr. Mac’s team with determining ideal territories and appropriate size, population and geographic requirements, the SMB team found that mac and cheese is potentially one of the most universally-loved products in the restaurant industry.
“Who doesn’t love mac and cheese?” Abbamondi said. “They are able to satisfy a really broad clientele with a high caliber product that’s still affordable. They also make everything from scratch, to order, with vegetarian and gluten free options available. There’s something for everyone on the menu.”
Having just launched the franchising element to their business in January 2016, Mr. Mac’s is already closing in on its inaugural deal with a franchisee planning to open three locations. Development of these franchise locations by a long-time loyal customer will be focused in southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts.
“They have an incredible built-in network of potential franchisees in their extremely satisfied customers from the past several years,” Beagelman said.
With a successful launch under their belts, SMB and Mr. Mac’s will continue working closely together to complete other longer-term tasks, such as the detailing of the brand’s five-year business plan, which includes development goals.
“We’ve agreed to go slow and steady at the onset. They’re not looking to sign 100 deals in their first year; they’d rather be very thoughtful in the franchisees they’re adding to the family, which is another thing we love about the team behind the brand. They’ll aim to sign agreements for between five and ten units this year,” Beagelman said.