DILLON, Mont. – Great Harvest Bread Company, a 40-year-old bakery brand that makes bread “the way it was made in the Bible,” says it is about to become the competition for Panera that it has never had.
The company announced it will begin offering a “hub and spoke” bakery-café franchise opportunity, where franchisees can purchase a large territory that includes a single Great Harvest Bread Co. bakery operation and as many café-only units as they want in surrounding towns. The bakery locations would be equipped with ovens and ample space to produce and deliver breads to nearby café-only locations throughout the day.
The total average cost to open a Great Harvest Bread Company bakery-café is about $315,000, compared to more than three times the amount for competing larger footprint concepts, such as Panera, notes a press release. Great Harvest is looking to open 25 locations with the new model in the next 15-18 months and is initially targeting the Northeast.
“All of the other big chains out there in the fast-casual bakery segment have one big box location every 10 or 15 miles that doesn’t bake from scratch,” said CEO Mike Ferretti. “With our new model, a Great Harvest Bread Co. franchisee can cover a larger territory for a significantly [smaller] investment than competitors like Panera, but still continue to make and serve bread by hand from scratch the way it’s supposed to.”
Dubbed “bread heaven” by loyal customers since 1976, Great Harvest Bread bakeries make their bread from whole grains milled right on the premises, which is typically a five-hour process that starts every day as early as 2:30 am. Great Harvest Bread also offers breakfast, deli sandwiches, healthy dinners and desserts.
Great Harvest says that its “Freedom Franchise” model allows franchisees to personalize their décor and menu offerings to suit their local markets. Franchisees can add menu items specific to a particular city or region, stay open earlier or later, give their bakery-cafés a neighborhood look, or sell alcohol.
“Our franchisees have always loved the freedom aspect. They get the support they need from us, with flexibility to add elements that they know will appeal to guests in their market. They aren’t forced into a cookie-cutter boxed model like most franchises,” Great Harvest President Eric Keshin added.
“Should competitors be worried about us? Absolutely,” Keshin said. “They are manufacturing in commissaries and focusing on technology, mass and speed. We are baking bread from scratch the right way and offering a franchise opportunity for a significantly lower cost than the big-box guys. We can outperform them with our product and out-cover them with our new model. I’ve heard people say we have long been the best-kept secret in the industry. Well, now the secret’s out.”