After a year and a half of rebranding efforts and menu tweaks, the executive team leading Daphne’s California Greek is ready to franchise across the country.

The 56-unit fast-casual concept, formally known as Daphne’s Greek Café, should succeed nationally because it satisfies consumers’ cravings for modern fast-casual brands and health-inspired food, says CEO Bill Trefethen.

Trefethen’s investment firm, Wreath Equity LLC, purchased the Daphne’s Greek Café concept in August 2010. The CEO says he was attracted to the company because it hadn’t yet been franchised but had potential to resonate with customers across the U.S.

The new leadership team has been busy repositioning the brand since the acquisition to make sure it does just that.

“What we did over the last 18 months was embark on a strategic plan to update the brand, make the brand more current, give the brand a personality and a culture,” Trefethen says, “and then also reposition and remodel a number of stores—both low performers and top performers—to see what impact a new branding would have on store-level economics.”

The repositioning included a new name, new logo, new branding, and revamped menu that added more healthy, California-inspired fare to the Mediterranean concept. It also infused an active lifestyle element to the brand, using sports figures like surfer Kelly Slater as “Brand Ambassadors” and supporting local sporting events.

The brand also focuses heavily on music in its stores, going so far as helping independent musicians gain exposure.  

“We think the cultural component of this brand, the lifestyle component of this brand, are almost as important as the food and operations,” Trefethen says.

As such, he says, the company is looking for multiunit franchise partners who are embedded in their communities and can connect personally with local consumers.

“We’d love to create not just a restaurant company, but truly a lifestyle company, almost like the lululemon of restaurants,” Trefethen says.

The brand targets a certain demographic, Trefethen says, that skews toward higher-earning, educated, multicultural, active customers. He adds that most metropolitans in the U.S. have neighborhoods with this demographic, and that college towns and campuses especially resonate with the Daphne’s brand.

Daphne’s will continue to open corporate locations, but the goal is to eventually have more franchise units than corporate units, Trefethen says. He says the company hopes to open an additional 50 units in the next three years.

And though the new leadership team has made several changes in the past 18 months to the Daphne’s brand, Trefethen says the company will give franchisees a “fair amount of autonomy” in their operations and that they shouldn’t expect many more changes.

“We wanted to make sure we had most of the bugs worked out before we franchised,” he says. “It’s a lot harder to initiate change once you have a number of franchise partners.”

To read more about Trefethen's "California Greek" concept, go here

By Sam Oches

Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Fast Casual, Growth, News, Daphne's California Greek