Innovative digital platform Creating Culinary Communities, or C3, is transforming nearly two dozen Speciality’s Café & Bakery locations into one of its proprietary concepts, EllaMia.
Specialty’s, which opened in 1987, decided in May to permanently close its more than 50 locations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. C3 acquired 22 of the stores—located in California, Washington, and Illinois—through an M&A transaction after the chain filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The acquisition will create up to 500 new jobs.
EllaMia—one of C3’s eight proprietary brands— is a café and bakery that serves sandwiches, baguettes, wraps, salads, pastries, macarons, and specialty chocolates. The breakfast and lunch items will be featured alongside a proprietary couture coffee blend created in partnership with Italian coffee maker Lavazza. EllaMia was created by chef Romain Fournel, who previously worked at Jean Philippe Patisserie in Las Vegas and Patisserie Henriet in Paris.
The brand, which has two locations in London and Dubai, will open its first U.S. store in February with community seating and display cases for grab and go orders. The future markets include Chicago, Seattle, San Diego, the Bay Area (San Francisco, Sacramento, Rancho Cordova, Oakland, San Mateo, Walnut Creek, San Jose, Milpitas, and Santa Clara) and Orange County (Irvine and Costa Mesa). EllaMia will also open at Arizona State, University of California, Berkeley, Iowa State, University of Michigan, University of Nebraska, and University of Richmond.
The locations will also share kitchen space with up to six other delivery-only brands under the C3 umbrella. The selection includes Umami Burger, Krispy Rice, Sam’s Crispy Chicken, Plant Nation, LA Gente, In a Bun, and The Other Side.
“A true restaurant of the future, EllaMia kitchens are each equipped to fluidly prepare foods from different C3 concepts to maximize efficiency of real estate and labor,” said COO Brad Reynolds in a statement. "The added availability of different cuisine to accommodate varying consumer preferences is another benefit for each local EllaMia community.”
According to CEO Sam Nazarian, C3 is a “a complete solution of an ecosystem of brands that work together to unlock the value of real estate in whatever capacity.” That could mean closed restaurants, such as Speciality’s, ghost kitchens, food halls, or hotel kitchens. C3 aims to combine those with its technology to maximize space and deliver food efficiently.
C3 currently has more than 200 digital kitchens, and 75 more are coming through Q1. The platform will operate up to six food halls by the end of Q1. Two hundred to 300 standalone C3 branded restaurants are expected to open by the end of 2023.
Soon, EllaMia and the delivery-only brands at each location will be available on a meal delivery app developed by C3. This will allow customers to place items from each brand into one shopping cart, brought by one delivery driver.
“When people ask what is C3, is it a ghost kitchen company, I say, ‘No, it's not,’” Nazarian says. “We do have ghost kitchens. We do have food halls. But we're a brand company, and we're a technology company to get you the food in the manner you want it. And so, it's definitely a big, foundational part of the way we look at the business, which is the quality of the brand and how it speaks to millennials, how it speaks to people that are for the first time—because they’re a little bit older—ordering online.”