I Heart Mac & Cheese announced a two-store Central Florida franchise development agreement that is the latest in the brand’s continued expansion across its home state. Two locations will open in Orlando beginning this Spring – one near the University of Central Florida (UCF) campus and the other on the renowned shopping and dining destination, International Drive, just minutes from the area’s most popular theme parks and attractions.

“I Heart Mac & Cheese is a fun, attractive concept and an affordable franchise model that is easy to operate with support systems in place to help our partners be successful, and we have found a terrific partner in Darshil Patel,” says Stephen Giordanella, I Heart Mac & Cheese CEO and Chairman. “Orlando is the third-largest metropolitan area in Florida with 1.5 million local residents and a truly international destination with more than 68 million visitors coming to the area each year.  I can’t imagine a better place to elevate our growing family-friendly brand onto the global stage.  We are excited to welcome both local residents and travelers from around the world as they experience our award-winning concept and create unforgettable memories.”

A central Florida resident, Patel will manage and oversee operations for both new I Heart Mac & Cheese locations. As a determined, budding entrepreneur, Darshil shadowed his father as he operated a wholesale business, learning and developing critical leadership and management skills.  He was attracted to the I Heart Mac & Cheese franchise following the brand’s launch of new vegan menu options in 2019, noting the simplicity and flexibility of the concept and the opportunity to bring a new, one-of-a-kind fast-casual concept into his rapidly expanding hometown.

“I’m excited to open two I Heart Mac & Cheese locations in the thriving Central Florida community,” adds Patel. “We look forward to bringing a conveniently delicious dining experience to the students at UCF, who I know are going to love this concept, as well as those visiting I-Drive in pursuit of a warm, welcoming place to dine with dishes that are reminiscent of their favorite childhood memories.”

I Heart Mac & Cheese is well-known for custom, build-your-own macaroni and cheese bowls and grilled cheese sandwiches. Guests select a pasta, bread, quinoa, broccoli or cauliflower base along with seven different proteins, vegetables, and cheeses. Most recently, the brand unveiled a new vegan menu featuring plant-based options through an official partnership that was launched with Beyond Meat®. Gluten-free options are also available. Sesame ginger, mango habanero, buffalo, BBQ, and pesto are a few of the delicious dressings and sauces available to mix in or top off each creation. In addition to customized options, the menu includes specialty chef special items like Baked Chicken Parmesan, Baked Meatball Parmesan, The Cuban, Pepperoni Pizza, and Lobster & White Truffle Mac, among others. Guests can pair their meal with the perfect side of Tomato Soup and finish it with a selection of desserts such as Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies and Marshmallow Treats.

A unique franchise concept in the restaurant industry with no fryers, grease trap systems or hood systems, I Heart Mac & Cheese requires a low investment and can be opened in a small space, such as a mall kiosk or food court. Shopping malls, sports venues, areas close to colleges and universities, and high-traffic pedestrian areas are also ideal locations.  With a home office in South Florida, I Heart Mac & Cheese offers franchise owner training, marketing support and ongoing development opportunities to ensure each location’s success.

In 2019, I Heart Mac & Cheese was ranked by Entrepreneur magazine as one of the top new franchise opportunities. Several other locations have recently been announced, with upcoming openings in Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas, as well as additional openings throughout Florida.

Emerging Concepts, Fast Casual, Franchising, News, I Heart Mac & Cheese