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Winter 2011 Cashing in on Crepes

A new franchise is looking to popularize crepes in the United States.

In 2002, when Mauricio Acevedo and his team of Colombian-born entrepreneurs brainstormed ideas about what would make a successful quick-service franchise in the United States, they asked themselves a few questions: What food is adaptable to every market, appeals to all members of the family, can be eaten any time of day, and has virtually no market competition? The unanimous answer was crepes and the idea for BannaStrow’s crepes franchise was born.

According to Acevedo, crepes have many things going for them in the United States. For one thing, there is not much competition. “There is no national leader of crepes in the United States. Crepes are famous worldwide except here,” he says. Another advantage? You can have full-scale restaurant offerings without a full kitchen. BannaStrow’s locations 
include kiosks and inline stores in malls. Even mobile trucks are being tested.

Batter up

BannaStrow’s offers an assortment of crepes, salads and coffee ranging in price from $3.80 to $8.50. Options include Caesar Crepe—with romaine lettuce, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, Caesar dressing and choice of meat; and Smoked Salmon crepe—with smoked salmon, capers, Alfredo sauce and sour cream.

Sweet options include Peach Melba; and the Fruit Jumble with bananas and strawberries, and chocolate or caramel drizzled on top. The Fruit Jumble is the most popular item, and accounts for 30 percent of sales. These sweet crepes can be upgraded to deluxe with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

All ingredients are pre-cooked and or pre-cut so there is very little waste, Acevedo says. The only cooking involved is turning the batter into a crepe on a griddle as the customer watches. This is a skill that usually only takes a couple of hours of training to master.

Acevedo says that there is a misconception in America that crepes are fattening. He argues that crepes from BannaStrow’s are healthy. “We have regular batter mix, and we just finished development on a whole-grain mix which is zero transfat, very low sodium, high in protein, and tastes almost the same in both sweet and savory options. The crepe itself 
doesn’t compete with any of the flavors inside,” says Acevedo. He adds that the “Crepe-Your-Own” option that the company offers allows customers to customize their crepes making them as healthy or hearty as they would like.

Franchise costs

Franchise setup costs range from 115K to 190K, depending on the size of the kiosk or operation. A franchise fee of 30K is included in the setup costs. This gives the franchisee access to the BannaStrow’s system, brand name, support, and a marketing boost from their public relations firm. BannaStrow’s can help the potential franchisee find a location, but franchisees are responsible for securing permits and dealing with any other local issues. Once the permits have been secured, a unit can be ready to open in 90 days.

BannaStrow’s goal is to add 25 new locations every year, and reach a total of 125 locations by the year 2015. To accelerate the pace of growth, BannaStrow’s is rolling out an “ambassador” program whereby an ambassador can lead growth efforts in a particular geographical area. Ambassadors must operate at least one BannaStrow’s unit; the company will share a portion of the franchise fees and royalties in return for local knowledge and networking information, and support and training for new franchisees. “What we’re looking for are entrepreneurs who want to create a long-term financially sound company and help us grow, and be our eyes and ears in places we can’t be,” says Acevedo.

Interested ambassadors need to contact BannaStrow’s and submit a business plan outlining what they can do in an area with a timeline. Acevedo says that an ambassador or area developer looks for new franchisees, pre-qualifies them and helps with location scouting. Since the ambassador already has a working unit in place, potential franchisees get to see the operation before committing to the business.

Getting into malls has proven relatively easy so far. In Florida where the company has four locations (Miami International Mall in Doral, Canoe Creek Service Plaza in St. Cloud, Dadeland Mall in Miami, and West Palm Beach Service Plaza in West Palm Beach), permits are issued by the Department of Agriculture because the operation is not strictly considered a place that has cooking operations. Permits through the Departments of Agriculture are much easier to obtain.

BannaStrow’s is in talks with potential franchisees in densely populated states like New York, California, Virginia, and Georgia. “We’re open to everything,” Acevedo says.

For more information, please visit www.bannastrows.com.


Vanessa Geneva Ahern

Vanessa Geneva Ahern is a NY-based freelance writer who covers business, health, travel, and wellness. She has written for various trade and consumer magazines including National Jeweler, SELF, and Fit Pregnancy. For more information, please visit www.girlgumption.com.

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