Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

JUL 2018

Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazines is an industry resource connecting foodservice operators, equipment and supplies manufacturers and dealers, and facility design consultants.

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76 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • JULY 2018 chain profile W hen Executive Chef and Co-Founder Michael Blum was first developing I Heart Mac & Cheese in 2015, his aspirations for the concept were simple. He was shooting for just one or two restaurants in and around Fort Lauderdale, Fla., according to President and Chief Development Officer Daniel Collins. Now, almost two years after that first store opened, the concept operates 6 locations in 3 states and expects to hit the 20-restaurant mark by the end of 2018. The long-term vision expands that to hundreds of locations, maybe more. How did I Heart Mac & Cheese go from humble indie to a chain with big goals so quickly? New partners, new employees and a conscious effort to change the operation — along with the kitchen — make the concept expansion and franchisee friendly. From Side to Entree A fast-casual concept, I Heart Mac & Cheese "takes mac and cheese from a side dish to make it a center-of-the-plate meal," says Collins. Its mac and cheese specialties include a lobster mac and cheese, buffalo chicken, a Philly cheesesteak varia- tion and The Cuban with ham, pork, Gruyere and dill pickles. With comfort food as the theme, guests can also order these dishes as grilled cheese sandwiches. While the core concept remains the same since it was first developed, its transformation into a scalable operation began even before the first restaurant opened its doors. That's when Chairman and CEO Stephen Giordanella joined the operation. At that time, the first restaurant was being built with a fast-casual dining area accompanied by a casual-dining-style kitchen. It was Giordanella who recognized that with some changes, the concept could go from an independent opera- tion to a thriving chain. "[Blum] was roasting the short rib, roasting the pork for 16 hours," Collins recalls. "He was doing everything himself. That product already exists. There's not only no need to do it that way, but there's no way to make that a franchise because I HEART MAC & CHEESE FOCUSES ON EFFICIENCY This comfort food specialist relies on a franchisee-friendly kitchen and simple operations to fuel growth. By Toby Weber

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