In June, Au Bon Pain’s turnaround reached a milestone when a new bakery-cafe opened at the Macy’s Queens Center in Elmhurst, New York. It’s the first corporate opening since Ampex took over and kicked off further expansion efforts inside the state. It’s the second such partnership with the well-known retail brand. Au Bon Pain has also been housed in Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan for 20 years.
In addition to new company-owned locations, the chain purchased four franchised units in need of retuning. All of it is an effort to show operators that Ampex is willing to put in the investment, Garza says.
“One of my primary goals was going back to the basics for franchisees, and I laid out some very strong commitments,” the president says. “And my commitment to our franchisees was, we were going to grow our corporate locations. The Macy's second location, I think as a brand overall there was momentum there. It's a big deal for the brand. There has not been a new location in many, many years. And so with this one location, it really has provided opportunities for demonstration, most importantly for existing franchises and new potential franchisees wanting to come into the business.”
Au Bon Pain expects roughly nine to 10 franchise locations to open before the end of 2022. In the U.S., the brand will focus growth in core markets like Miami, New York, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. Internationally, Mexico is being explored, and Thailand will add five shops by year’s end. Going forward, Garza expects more franchise expansion compared to company-run development. She believes there’ll be more corporate cafes in Texas, which holds Au Bon Pain’s training center. As development marches on, the concept will continue to seek real estate that it’s known for—hospitals and clinics, universities, travel centers, and airports. The brand will likely stay away from business offices, an industry that Garza says is getting better, but has not quite recovered. Existing franchisees are looking into standalone boxes; Garza sees it as a big opportunity, but she also wants to make sure Au Bon Pain doesn’t stray too far from what’s worked in the past.
A year into the acquisition, Garza describes the Ampex/Au Bon Pain partnership as a success.
“I knew that it was going to be a lot of work, I knew that in some areas it was going to be very challenging, but I came in determined with the team that I inherited of achieving goals and setting out a strategy,” Garza says. “I can tell you here today, we are very proud of our achievements, and we're pretty confident in where we're headed as a brand. In a short time, we’ve come very far with tangible results.”