Emerging Concepts | August 2013 | By Judy Kneiszel

Ones To Watch: Café Yumm!

Organic rice bowl chain offers a home-grown recipe to the Northwest.

Cafe Yumm is a Northwest fast casual chain specializing in organic rice bowls.
Café Yumm!
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When Mary Ann Beauchamp ran a little restaurant called Wild Rose Café and Deli in the early 1990s, customers would often give their meal a one-word review. That word eventually worked its way into the name of the concept created by Mary Ann and her husband Mark: Café Yumm!

“She always had rice cooking, so for her own lunch, she’d scoop up some rice and add lentils or beans, and then she always put this sauce on it that she made at home,” Mark Beauchamp says of Mary Ann. “She thought the sauce was too unusual to serve in the cafe, but people would ask, ‘What is the cook eating? Would you make me one of those?’ And then they would take a bite and say, ‘Yum, what is that sauce?’”

The Beauchamps opened the first Café Yumm!, focused on the humble rice and bean bowl, in 1999. By 2002, there were three locations in the Eugene, Oregon, area. Mark gave up his job in real estate to devote himself to Café Yumm! full time.

“After a year in our third location, the problem was that the lines were too long,” he says. “We started looking at how to open new locations, and we grew to six in the Eugene area.”

He attended a franchising trade show in January 2005, which changed the future of the company. “It really opened my eyes to what franchising is—the support structure and the systems,” Beauchamp says. “So when I came back, Mary Ann and I had a meeting and decided franchising was the way we had to go.”

Café Yumm!

President: Mark Beauchamp

HQ: Eugene, Oregon

Year Started: 1999

Annual Sales: $12 million

Total Units: 11

Franchise units: 9

www.cafeyumm.com

He began redeveloping the Café Yumm! brand, creating a franchising agreement and training documentation. “Then the Great Recession hit,” he says. “And that was not in my business plan. So franchising was slow, but we still opened five locations.”

Café Yumm! is registered to franchise in Oregon, Washington, and California. Stores are planned for Seattle and Portland, and Beauchamp says he wants to expand into Tacoma and Olympia, Washington. He’s also looking for a multiunit developer to bring the brand to California.

“In the next five years, we want to get to a total of 50 [restaurants],” Beauchamp says.

The menu at Café Yumm! offers eight formatted combination bowls in three sizes, including the Original, which consists of organic brown rice and organic black beans layered with Original Yumm! Sauce and topped with organic salsa.

The Jazzy and Hot ‘n’ Jazzy rice bowls are similar but made with jasmine rice, with the hot option being topped with Jalapeño-Sesame salsa. The Chilean Zucchini bowl is a zucchini-corn-tomato stew layered with organic brown rice and Original Yumm! Sauce, topped with organic salsa. Soups, salads, wraps, and skewers round out the menu. Beauchamp says the medium Original Yumm! Bowl is the most popular order, but most guests customize their order by adding or taking off a vegetable or topping.

Base pricing for the three bowl sizes is $4.95, $5.95, and $6.95, but franchisees can choose to adjust the prices as they see fit. An average ticket at Café Yumm! is $10 per person. While most offerings at Café Yumm! are meat-free, the Beauchamps don’t use the word vegetarian to describe the concept.

“We just make Yumm! Bowls that happen to not have any meat in them,” Beauchamp says. “Mary Ann wanted to be able to make something anyone could eat, whether they are vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, or lactose free, but you can add chicken or salmon to your bowl if you would like. We just want to serve great-tasting, nourishing, whole, organic, natural food.”

For people who want to try to make Café Yumm! Bowls at home, the brand sells its proprietary sauce by the jar. It is also available in 110 grocery stores in the Pacific Northwest, and by mail order throughout the U.S. Yumm! Sauce is available in original, roasted garlic, and chipotle flavors.

Beauchamp says Café Yumm! handles its own distribution and owns warehouses, trucks, and vans. “That started with our second location,” he says. “Because of the eclectic nature of Mary Ann’s cooking, we were buying from 15–20 different vendors to get the Asian ingredients, the African spices, you name it. We couldn’t use a mainline food distributor.”

The Café Yumm! system also incorporates sustainable applications throughout the business. One Portland store, for example, was the first LEED Gold–certified restaurant in Oregon. The chain also built the country’s first solar-powered electric-vehicle charging station at a restaurant.

“If we looked at some of the initiatives we embrace from a bottom-line profitability angle, the answer would be no,” Beauchamp says of whether the sustainability makes financial sense. “But we have to do this because it’s what we do. Our core market wants to support this.”

He says it’s the same reason Café Yumm! uses organic produce as much as possible. “It’s a different way to think about what we do and how we eat,” Beauchamp says. “And we want to show people that this way can work, too. Somebody has to step up and say, ‘Hey, we support these things.’ We want to raise the bar on our industry.”