Bakers Journal

Paris Baguette chief development officer talks expansion and location considerations

June 24, 2023
By Bakers Journal

Toronto – Paris Baguette franchise is expanding steadily into the Canadian market. Bakers Journal spoke with Mark Mele, chief development officer for North America, about expansion plans and the considerations that go into choosing bakery-café locations.

Paris Baguette opened its first bakery-café selling cakes, specialty brewed coffees, baked breads and pastries in Canada on March 23 in the Yonge Sheppard Centre.

The new store marks the expansion of the brand’s North American footprint with at least seven slated to open across Canada, and an additional 64 in the United States in 2023 through a combination of corporate-owned and franchise locations.

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The Toronto store is 2,300 square feet and has seating for up to 20 guests. Large self-serve displays feature pastries, breads and cakes, and an open kitchen provides a window into bakers and cakers at work. A large centre island showcases signature treats like the Strawberry Soft Cream Cake and mochi donuts. The café has a modern design with French architectural features.

Initial growth in Canada will be concentrated in the Greater Toronto Area, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

Bakers Journal spoke with Mark Mele, CFE, chief development officer for North America, about expansion plans and the considerations that go into choosing bakery-café locations.

The franchise’s U.S. headquarters are in New Jersey. The brand itself was born in Seoul South Korea in 1988, Mele said. In 2005 they set up in the U.S., recently they set up in Canada to franchise and soon they will launch in Mexico.

Mele said the overriding consideration for the franchise is demand: “We always look for population bases, of course. Alberta, B.C., Ontario and parts of Quebec. I think Canada could easily support 100-120 locations based on its demographics and population base.”

He describes the Paris Baguette concept: “We typically open early morning starting and cafés close at 10 or 11 p.m., depending on the market. Production is all in house. Walk into a café and you’re going to know you’re in a bakery. It’s an open-concept kitchen. We think it’s wonderful theatre and people want to see what’s happening. Cakers, bakers, sandwich makers. Baking and prepping for the next day.”

How much does demographics play a role in choosing a location? “When we’re going into densely populated areas it’s much easier to recruit and retain staff in those markets. Where you have density you have talent and a chance to pick up talent. They need some experience. It cuts down on time spent training.”

For the small bakery ready to expand, Mele said, “We have a proven model and the model is that we have the products daily that bring in and draw in the customers (100-plus items every day). We’ve set ourselves up to scale up. I think you have to be careful and govern yourself according to the market. With a smaller offering comes a smaller space. Our average units are 3,000-3,400 square feet. We want to display everything we’re baking.”

Of its latest location at Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue in Toronto, Mele noted that access to the subway and public transit was a key consideration. “Most of our customers are grab-and-go. You’ve got to be ready and site selection is everything. Rent is everything. Pay attention to your budget and finances. You have to have the right combination of space to be able to pull it off. It’s all about the size of storage space and customers.”


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