For years, the build-your-own model in the dessert segment rarely applied to anything but ice cream shops and frozen yogurt brands. But California-based Cinnaholic aims to change that. Cofounders Florian Radke and Shannon Michelle Radke are taking their customizable cinnamon roll bakery business to the national stage with a new store prototype and franchise program.

“If you have one thing people love so much, why not put a different twist on it so people can try many versions of it. That was the idea behind the design-your-own cinnamon roll,” Florian Radke says. “We tested it in the market, and it was such a unique experience for people.”

With Shannon Michelle Radke’s experience as a baker, the pair took their concept to ABC’s “Shark Tank” and was met with positive reviews. Now, they hope their single storefront in Berkeley, California, will be joined by 100 franchise units across the U.S. in the coming years. To attract potential operators, the brand is offering a store prototype fit for a 700–1,200 square-feet retail space that highlights the brand’s differentiated, vegan-friendly product and edgy design.

“All of our products are dairy free and egg free, so they cater to people who consider themselves vegan or are lactose intolerant,” Radke says. “Dairy and eggs have always been in the top five [food] allergens in the United States, and there are tons of people out there who just can’t have items like cinnamon rolls.”

The vegan rolls can be topped with a selection of more than 30 icing flavors, including cream soda, pumpkin spice, and root beer, and more than 20 toppings such as fresh fruit and cookie pieces. The new prototype will also feature a gourmet coffee platform, and the corporate team will encourage franchisees to seek providers from their local market.

“We see Cinnaholic as still as family business. We want people to be rooted in their communities when they open a Cinnaholic, so we want them to provide local, high-quality coffee,” Radke says.  “We started in Berkeley working with a San Francisco coffee roaster that’s now huge, but when they started, we were one of the few places that served them. We want to get the local community moving.”

Radke says the contemporary black-and-white prototype design is also a point of differentiation for the dessert segment. “All our colors are black and white with silver accents, and that’s the stage for the product,” he says.

Cinnaholic is working with Atlanta Franchise Group in its expansion and offering deals for both single unit and multiunit operators.

By Tamara Omazic

Beverage, Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Desserts, Fast Casual, News, Cinnaholic