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The Great Franchisee: Wei Zhu, Paris Baguette, South Carolina

The multi-brand restaurant owner is introducing Paris Baguette to South Carolina diners this spring.

By Nikki Crosthwaite1851 Franchise Contributor
SPONSOREDUpdated 2:14PM 03/11/22

For 20 years, Wei Zhu has made a name for himself around his beach community by bringing good food to the picturesque Hilton Head Island. He owns a cajun seafood joint, HOOK REEL, and swanky hibachi and sushi restaurant called OKKO. Recently Zhu decided to look into franchise opportunities to expand and diversify his portfolio. Last year, he signed franchise agreements with three brands: JINYA Ramen Noodle, Kung Fu Bubble Tea, and 4,000-location bakery-café concept Paris Baguette*.

Zhu’s Paris Baguette, which is slated to open this May, will be the franchise’s first location in South Carolina, which the brand’s development team says has room and demand for more than 20 locations.

We spoke to Zhu to learn more about his path to franchising and his experience with Paris Baguette.

1851 Franchise: What did you do before franchising?

Wei Zhu: I have been in the restaurant industry for 20 years. I have two stores opening up in addition to Paris Baguette: JINYA Ramen Noodle and Kung Fu Bubble Tea. Prior to that, I opened my own restaurant brand called the HOOK Reel Cajun Seafood and I’m currently the owner of a popular hibachi restaurant on the island, Okko Japanese Sushi and Hibachi Restaurant. My landlord happened to have a 1,200 square foot space available in the area and I knew Paris Baguette would be a great fit. In the beginning stages of Paris Baguette, I didn't have a partner with restaurant experience or someone who knew how to run a bakery shop. I got in contact with a family member who operates a coffee shop in New York City and pitched the idea of opening my own bakery in Hilton Head. I wanted to talk to him because he has a similar bakery business in a cafe atmosphere. One thing led to the next and we decided to become business partners and open Paris Baguette in Hilton Head.

1851: How long from the first time you learned about franchising until you inquired?

Zhu: I began looking into franchising over 20 years ago. I knew I wanted to be a business owner ever since I was young. Over those two decades, I’ve owned all my restaurants and really enjoyed the journey. It was close to a year after discovering Paris Baguette that I decided I wanted to open a location in my town of Hilton Head.

1851: How did you perform your research?

Zhu: I relied a lot on Google to perform my research. From my experience, I already know how to handle managing and financing a franchise, so there weren't a lot of challenges that I ran into. I talked to a couple of my friends with connections to the bakery franchise and they told me that we were the kind of owners that Paris Baguette wants to franchise with. 

1851: How many brands did you look at? 

Zhu: I did not look at any other brands. I knew Paris Baguette was the only bakery I wanted to open.

1851: What made you say yes to Paris Baguette? 

Zhu: The number one reason I chose Paris Baguette was the quality of their product. They have a consistent product nationwide. Every time I have traveled out of state and stopped by the café, I love the atmosphere and the food. 

1851: What could have scared you away? 

Zhu: If Paris Baguette wasn’t well known or a successful franchise that would have made me shy away from it. With my business background, I understand the finances and work ethic it takes to run a business, so I don’t think anything scared me away from opening the bakery. 

1851: What makes you stand out as a unique business owner in the local community?

Zhu: I’ve been in Hilton Head for 20 years, I’ve made this island my home and the local community knows me. I’m an established business owner here. The beach is a huge selling point for locals and tourists, but all those people need diverse restaurants to dine at after spending the day in the sun. I think the community has welcomed my restaurants with open arms and they are going to love the new bakery. I think I’m unique in the sense that I get to continue to introduce more food options to locals, options they may never get to taste if they don’t travel out of the area.

1851: What kind of growth plans do you have?

Zhu: My first priority is to grow the business by hiring the right kitchen and dining room staff. I am in the process of hiring chefs who can live up to the consistency of the brand. and am looking to bring 10 additional jobs to the area. I hope Paris Baguette is a huge hit with the locals and they’re grateful we brought the bakery franchise to the state. I want to achieve financial success by reaching my goals of $200,000 a month and $2 million annually. My hope is that this location is a huge success and we can expand it into neighboring cities such as Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia.

1851: What do you do in your personal time?

Zhu: I love spending time with my kids, wife and extended family. I have one child in high school and one in college. Between running all of my businesses, there isn’t a lot of free time. When my family can get away from work and school, we love traveling. If I’m not with them you can catch me on the tennis court or working out.



Paris Baguette is a bakery café franchise with more than 4,000 units across the globe. The brand first arrived in the U.S. in 2005 and has since established nearly 100 locations in markets across the country, making it one of the premier franchise opportunities in its category. Paris Baguette’s primary mission, executed every day by its expert staff of bakers, cakers and baristas, is to share moments of joy with customers and help customers share moments of joy with their friends and family by providing world-class cakes, pastries, coffees, breads and other French-inspired bakery café fare. For more information, please visit

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.