With his sights set on helping Paris Baguette reach its goal of 1,000 units by 2030, new Chief Development Officer Eric Lavinder has taken the mantle after the departure of previous CDO Mark Mele to Edible Brands.
“I think the potential to bring back those neighborhood cafes and neighborhood bakeries is something I can’t wait to help do across the country,” said Lavinder. “There’s really nothing that is the same type of niche that we’re hitting on.”
Paris Baguette was founded in South Korea and came to the United States in 2015. The bakery-café brand is known for its many offerings, including cakes, breads and coffee. Treats are based both on popular South Korean items as well as American classics. Since expanding to the United States, it has grown to about 150 domestic locations, with nearly 4,000 internationally.
The plan for expanding to 1,000 by 2030 was announced in 2019. At the time, Paris Baguette had 83 units in the U.S.; this year it passed the 150-unit mark. The clock is ticking, and Lavinder certainly has his work cut out for him.
Since joining Paris Baguette in September, Lavinder is already hard at work in order to help it meet its goal. To achieve its long-term goal, Lavinder knows from experience how to approach a growth push. He spent five years at Quiznos as a director of operations and previously led development at WOWorks (parent of Saladworks, Frutta Bowls and others) and Duck Donuts.
Instead of hiring a slew of people now, for example, he’s bringing a steadiness to the process. Hire a few people, build a few locations, repeat until at 1,000.
“As long as you’re continuing to follow the vision and make sure that you’re staying on track, it’s the intentional growth and intentional decisions of how do we continue to excel and exceed what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Lavinder.
One of the ways Paris Baguette aims to drive franchise sales is through its new prototype. With a more open layout, guests can watch as dough is kneaded, baked and prepped while enjoying their snack. These locations are the standard going forward, and have already proven their worth for Paris Baguette.
“We are fully involved and engaged with the prototype 3.0, which is our newest café look and feel,” said Lavinder. “Any new prototype you do, there’s always a vision and strategy, and there’s always the follow up.”
Nothing is ever perfect, and while the prototypes are performing well, there have been little tweaks, such as moving counters and ovens in the name of efficiency. Like the other bumps, “you can’t spend every day waiting to have that one improvement,” said Lavinder.
The team is relying on franchisee and employee experiences to inform adjustments. Their feedback is the key to the prototype’s success in the coming years, and any future upgrades to the cafes. For customers, these changes won’t really be noticed. It’s all for the sake of optimizing back-of-house operations, Lavinder said.
“You always have those little challenges that get you bumps along the road, but so long as they’re not substantial, you stay the course,” he said. “One or two small minor things is something to notice and take awareness to, but don’t let them change your plan on how you’re getting there.”
The initial investment for a Paris Baguette ranges from $652,565 to $1,750,900.