In last month’s Restaurant Insight, I gave you a look at some long-time survivors in the foodservice industry by focusing on three family-dining companies that are observing their 60th anniversary this year. This month we’re going to take a look at a few more recent comers to the industry, companies which have managed to weather the past two decades of economic uncertainty and are still standing.

There must have been something in the air in 1993 that made consumers hungry for home-baked goodies, because that year saw the founding of bakery-café chains Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, Atlanta Bread Company, BAB Inc., Breadsmith, and The Great Canadian Bagel. These companies are all in the forefront of what we now call fast-casual foodservice, a loosely-defined concept that is perceived as a higher quality and fresher menu at a somewhat higher price point than quick serve but below that charged in a full-service casual restaurant. Bagels in particular have proven to have an enduring popularity, a low-calorie guilt-free way to start the day or a treat to yourself when it’s loaded with a schmear of cream cheese and other toppings.

Einstein Noah Restaurant Group (ENRG) is the largest of the bakery-café companies celebrating two decades this year and bills itself as the largest operator of bagel bakeries in the nation. The current system includes approximately 755 restaurants in 39 states and the District of Columbia. The company operates its own stores as Einstein Bros. and Noah’s New York Bagels, while franchising is primarily under the Manhattan Bagel brand. It also has 240 licensed Einstein Bros. locations operated by foodservice management companies nationwide.  In the early years, what is now ENRG operated primarily as upscale coffee and tea houses under the names of New World Coffee and Willoughby’s Coffee and Tea.  Manhattan Bagel Company was acquired in 1998, followed a year later by Chesapeake Bagel Bakery. In 2001, the company acquired the Einstein/Noah Bagel Corp. and eventually rebranded the company to its current name. In May 2012, ENRG announced it had authorized a review of strategic alternatives that could have included a sale of the company but later reported that it will recapitalize its operations.

The idea for Atlanta Bread Company was born when Jerry Couvaras invested in a small sandwich shop in Sandy Spring, GA. He bought the shop two years later and founded Atlanta Bread International. The menu is primarily focused on sandwiches, and customers have their choice among 17 different bread types (including bagels). There is also a selection of soups and salads. The company was included on the Top 100 2011 Movers & Shakers, after topping the 2010 Zagat Fast Food Survey for Healthy Options and Facilities. After reaching more than 160 locations at one point, the chain has pared down to less than half that at this time.

BAB Inc. operates more than 100 locations as Big Apple Bagels and My Favorite Muffins in 25 states across the country, ranging from the Pacific Northwest to the Deep South up to New England. The concept has also expanded into the Middle East. The company was founded by Paul Stolzer in Deerfield, IL, where it still maintains its headquarters. A typical BAB store is in an area with a mix of both residential and commercial properties and ranges from 1,500 to 2,000 square feet. The Company’s current store design is approximately 1,800 square feet, with seating capacity for 20 to 30 persons, and includes approximately 750 square feet devoted to production and baking. A satellite store is typically smaller than a production store, averaging 800 to 1,200 square feet. In addition to its retail locations, BAB derives income from distribution through nontraditional channels under licensing agreements with Mrs. Fields, Kohr Bros. Frozen Custard, Sodexo, and others as well as direct home delivery of gift baskets. BAB Inc. trades as BABB on the OTCBB market.

Breadsmith was founded by Dan Sterling in Milwaukee, WI, and the company maintains its Midwest base of operations with all but a few locations to be found in the heartland. Growth of the chain has been more measured than with most of the other companies and as of early 2013, 34 locations are open with a 35th coming soon. The company seeks locations in major U.S. markets and specifically wants sites in areas with a minimum of 80,000 within a three-mile radius, average household income of $50,000+, and at least 75% owner-occupied housing; Breadsmith is currently seeking franchisees to continue the expansion of the brand.

The first Great Canadian Bagel location opened in Toronto, ON. It featured 24 varieties of fresh baked bagels, 21 flavors of cream-cheese spreads and a selection of soups, salads, and made-to-order sandwiches. A second location followed that fall and franchising began in 1994. Although small by U.S. standards, the company’s 30 locations make it the largest chain in the Canadian bakery-café market.

If you would like to learn more about companies and chains such as these that are observing a 20-year anniversary or a 50-year anniversary or even a one-year anniversary, come to Chain Store Guide for all your data needs.



In the month of January, Chain Store Guide received responses from 353 restaurant operators with at least five locations. Of the companies surveyed, nearly a third are currently using some type of mobile device inside at least one of their restaurants. Apple products (iPad, iPod, and iPhone) accounted for more than 60% of the device selections. Android phone and tablets represented about 20% and other tablets made up the rest.

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