Grégoire Jacquet: Creating a Restaurant Franchise in a Niche Segment
My years in the fine dining world taught me what I wanted for my concept and what I didn’t.
Food has always been the main focus of my life. I grew up in a small city in France, with a big garden where we grew all their food and prepared meat from our homestead. My mom was a fantastic cook, and I learned from the best.
We always cooked at home; I was 14 years old when I went to my first restaurant, and it amazed me. That planted a seed in me, and I decided to go to cooking school and work in fine dining establishments throughout France. Afterward, I spent many years working with Ritz Carlton in San Francisco, Boston and Puerto Rico.
After all those years in fine dining kitchens, I had a spark of passion to open up my own restaurant. My experience had given me a great deal of insight into the parts of the business that I liked — and those that I didn’t.
I respected the high-quality food on the menus, but I didn’t really enjoy the dynamic between the front and back of the house. I have always been very personable and didn’t like the separation between us cooks and the patrons consuming our creations.
The idea came to me that I could do away with the fuss of a white-tablecloth dining experience and offer premium food to customers in an intimate, carry-out environment. I worked with my wife to find the perfect spot for a neighborhood gourmet to-go concept, and in 2002, Grégoire opened its doors in Berkeley, California.
At Grégoire, we did away with waiters and hosts and made customer interaction a priority. In the beginning, I was the chef, the server, the face, everything. Even now, it is a very small footprint, and there only needs to be three or four people working on running the restaurant. Patrons are right there at the counter, watching us prepare their meals.
Right away, the concept was a hit. People loved that they could order delicious, locally-sourced menu items quickly and conveniently to take on the go.
It was something nobody else was doing when this started, and still, even now, we really stick out in the fast-casual space because of the quality of our food. Most quick options are pizza or a drive-thru type eatery.
That couldn’t be further from what we offer; we have items that no one can compete with. Every market that Grégoire enters may have a different menu and use different ingredients from various providers in different areas. When we’re in Texas, we’ll use farmers from Texas, meat from Texas, vegetables from Texas — anything we can use from the local area. That’s a big differentiator between us and other restaurant franchises.
And because Grégoire is a small space, I ensured that all the seemingly little details were perfect, not just the food. Everything that we have done for Grégoire is something that has been very well thought out. It’s very important to consider every part of your processes as a business owner, from the design of the take-out containers to the kitchen layout.
When we first opened, I knew that the boxes we served the food in had to be sturdy enough to keep the food hot and have a sleek, eye-catching look that would add to our brand recognition. After searching and being dissatisfied with options in the marketplace, I took the onus upon myself to use software and make my own patented containers.
Thinking about the workflow in the kitchen is also vital. Less equipment and fewer steps mean more efficient service. That’s why Grégoire locations are designed to have a compact assembly kitchen, where they receive pre-prepared ingredients from a central hub where the initial work is done. This keeps operations in the restaurants streamlined and low overhead for franchise owners. We don’t need culinary-savvy franchisees; we just need people who are good managers and great at customer service.
For two decades now, I have immensely enjoyed the quality of life that Grégoire has provided me. When I worked in fine dining, I would work dreadfully long hours and rarely get to spend time with my loved ones. Owning the restaurant has provided me with the freedom to have meals with my family. As we open up the brand to franchise opportunities, I am excited to offer those same benefits to new owners.
Franchising with Grégoire provides a unique opportunity to own a restaurant that serves high-quality food without needing a huge staff and footprint or in-depth culinary knowledge. This is a business model that is designed in a way that makes operations easy for the franchisees, as the franchisor handles things like prep work and quality control. The main focus of those in the restaurants is to assemble the meals and hand them off to customers with a smile.
What Grégoire offers to both customers and potential franchise candidates is a novelty. We are not cookie cutter and not an average restaurant. These niche services we provide in the community really stand out.
The cost to open a Grégoire franchise ranges from $298,924 to $420,100. For more information on franchising with Grégoire, visit www.gfranchise.com.
French-trained chef Grégoire Jacquet had a vision of a local restaurant offering quality fine dining-style food with the convenience of a quick carry-out experience. In 2002, Grégoire opened its doors as the first fine-fast-casual restaurant concept that serves gourmet sandwich and salad dishes, its famous potato puffs and scratch daily fresh-made french fries, all served in a custom-designed take out box. After two decades of serving the local Berkley, CA community, Grégoire has launched franchising opportunities in the Greater Bay Area.