Six years after launching inside an Arizona State apartment, Dirty Dough is surpassing 80 brick-and-mortar locations with dozens of units in development and 460 franchise territories sold. 

It also has the support of a fast-growing platform company that’s opening new horizons. The cookie chain joined Craveworthy Brands earlier this year, tapping into its supply chain, franchise development, and marketing muscle to gain a strategic edge in the so-called “cookie wars.”

Founder Bennett Maxwell credits Dirty Dough’s rapid ascension to three key factors. First and foremost is the flagship product. The brand’s indulgent treats are baked with layers, mix-ins, and fillings in the dough. Think sugar cookies filled with raspberry jam and coated with icing and sprinkles, or fudge brownie cookies loaded with Reese’s peanut butter chips and stuffed with peanut butter protein nougat. 

  • Founder: Bennett Maxwell
  • Headquarters: Lindon, Utah
  • Year Started: 2018
  • Annual Sales: $13 million
  • Total Units: 80-plus locations open with 16 food trucks in operation

The second factor is a simple operating model. The company opted to centralize production at a manufacturing facility early on instead of having stores prepare their own dough. That goes a long way toward maintaining consistency and a low cost of goods for franchisees. It also helps lower the barrier of entry as far as upfront costs go since stores can run as small as 600 square feet with a single employee and minimal equipment.

READ MORE: Craveworthy Brands to Acquire Growing Cookie Chain Dirty Dough

“We found specialized machines that do stuffed cookies as well as two- and three-layer cookies, so you can have peanut butter dough on the outside, chocolate dough in the middle, and hot fudge filling inside,” Maxwell says. “You can mix thousands of cookies at a time and then ship those out to franchisees to be baked onsite. You don’t have any downside in the freshness, but you have a large upside in quality control.” 

The third factor is a highly publicized legal dispute with one of its primary competitors. That may seem counterintuitive, but Maxwell says Dirty Dough gained national attention after Crumbl—the largest player in the cookie space—filed a lawsuit accusing it of copyright infringement two years ago. It ended up selling hundreds of franchises because of the exposure. 

“People would go to our website to find out who this company is that Crumbl was suing,” he says. “They’d find a more unique cookie and a simplistic business model, and then they’d inquire about franchising.”

A Dirty Dough front counter.
Dirty Dough was the 11th chain to join Craveworthy Brand’s portfolio.

The cookie chains reached a settlement last fall, paving the way for Craveworthy to acquire an undisclosed but significant interest in Dirty Dough. It was one of the platform’s largest deals to date and marked its first foray into the snacking category.

Dirty Dough is the 11th brand to join Craveworthy. Led by founder and CEO Gregg Majewski, the platform of emerging and legacy fast-casuals formed in late 2022 when it acquired two existing chains, Wing It On! and The Budlong, and created two new brands, Krafted Burger + Tap, and Lucky Cat Poke Co. It later added Genghis Grill, Flat Top Grill, BD’s Mongolian Grill, Pastizza, Scramblin’ Ed’s, and Soom Soom Mediterranean. 

Majewski took over as the chief executive of Dirty Dough when the companies joined forces in January. Before that, he served as an adviser to the dessert concept. 

“The fact that we can stuff our cookies and own the production facility made this an interesting investment for us,” Majewski says. “There’s no one out there on a national stage that does what we’re doing with the stuffed cookie. Take that and add our operations to an already booming brand, and what we’re capable of doing is endless.”

The industry veteran says Craveworthy already is boosting margins for franchisees, with cookie costs falling by about 30 percent in the first few weeks thanks to the company’s purchasing power. 

His aspirations go a lot further than unit economics, though. For starters, he wants to evolve the brand from “just cookies” to “cookie-inspired.” That means adding more revenue streams, like coffee and other new products, into the pipeline. 

“Everything runs in fads, so we want to make sure we’re ahead of that at all times,” Majewski says. “We have a whole lot of coffees and some other surprises that we’ll be rolling out in the next year to help maintain the excitement around the brand, and more importantly, to differentiate ourselves.” 

Co-branding is on the horizon, too. Dirty Dough’s centralized distribution, low labor requirements, and ability to fit in small spaces make it ideal for pairing up with other concepts. That should help franchisees take bigger spaces for multiple concepts with minimal costs. 

“Instead of looking for a tougher-to-find 1,500-1,800-square-foot location, I can pick a 2,500-square-foot location and give 500 to Dirty Dough and 2,000 to the other brand,” Majewski says. “We definitely think of this as an add-on to our current locations and potentially new locations across the country.” 

The manufacturing facility offers another compelling opportunity. He believes it is underutilized but capable of doing upward of $200 million in sales by producing CPG products. Breaking into that arena has been on Craveworthy’s radar for a while. Genghis Grill, for example, is working on a line of frozen retail products with a co-packer. 

The company wants to leverage Dirty Dough’s excess production capacity to do something similar and develop products that will go into grocery stores. It also could use the facility to produce cookie dough for other companies.

Looking ahead to the rest of the year, Maxwell and Majewski expect to sell around 125 additional stores. They also anticipate opening 50 new locations before the calendar flips over into 2025, which will push it well past the 100-unit threshold. Longer-term, the pair envision the footprint growing to at least 1,000 stores nationwide. 

“We feel the brand is capable of reaching that number of open stores,” Majewski says. “We also feel Dirty Dough can be a brand that you’re making at home with your friends and families–sort of the new Nestlé of cookies. Whenever someone talks about cookies, they’re going to think about Dirty Dough, and we need to have the products available in all avenues to make sure that happens.”

Emerging Concepts, Fast Casual, Franchising, Growth, Story, Dirty Dough