How the ‘fine-fast-casual’ category creator is tackling

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Chef Grégoire Jacquet – a classically trained chef and creator of what he calls the first fine-fast-casual restaurant, Gregoire in Berkeley, California – launches the franchise. Initially announced in January, Jacquet aims to open around fifteen restaurants over the next decade. Unlike traditional quick-service models, Gregoire’s franchise expansion is likely to be slow and focused, because with a menu of food-inspired recipes, consistency in quality is crucial.

“We use local ingredients and meats from farms and make sandwiches out of them, and it’s all made to go,” Jacquet said. “[…] We change our menu quarterly based on seasonal availability. […] Our recipes are quite challenging and all preparation is done at a high culinary level. We don’t buy anything pre-made, and some of these recipes are quite technical.

Jacquet began his culinary career in France before moving to the United States to train with French chef Jacky Robert, who helped bring fusion cuisine to America. After nearly a decade of working as an executive sous chef for the Ritz Carlton in several cities, Jacquet decided to open his own restaurant. Gregoire opened in Berkeley in 2002 as an upscale salad and sandwich restaurant with dishes like egg salad and anchovies on toast; a zucchini, garlic and feta quiche; poutine and its famous potato soufflés.

Although Grégoire has only had one location for 20 years, Jacquet believes the time has come to take the plunge. But with such a delicate menu with complex recipes and fresh ingredients, how will he ensure quality as the concept develops? Jacquet will use something skin to a hub and spoke model that ghost kitchens have used: he and his team of trained chefs will periodically prepare food in a central commissary kitchen, then deliver the semi-prepared food to franchise locations. In this way, Jacquet does not necessarily need to partner with culinary-oriented franchisees.

“Our model is going to be a little different from a typical franchise,” he said. “We’re going to roast the turkey, we’re going to slice and divide the turkey, and send it to our franchisee, so the only thing they have to do is the same as all the line cooks: we’ll have a range of servings of ingredients in containers labeled with best before dates, then all they have to do is assemble [the sandwich or salad] and they are ready to go.

Jacquet is already working with software that will allow staff to easily track inventory: the software logs each time an order is received so they can know exactly when a franchisee needs a restock of turkey, chicken patties, lamb or Persian cucumber salad.

Although it sounds simple enough, Jacquet said culinary training will still have a learning curve as they will have to retrain staff every time the menu changes seasonally. As Gregoire grows, each franchise location should be no more than an hour or two from the central hub to ensure they can deliver prepared ingredients without issue.

So if Jacquet isn’t specifically looking for cooks to run his franchise restaurants, what is he looking for in a business partner?

“They don’t need to have cooking skills, but they do need to have people skills,” he said. “When I started Grégoire, I was well surrounded. I didn’t just cook, I knew all the numbers and was passionate about people.

Jacquet is keeping an eye on franchisees in the West Coast and Southeast markets, particularly Seattle and Florida.

Contact Joanna at [email protected]

Find her on Twitter: @JoannaFantozzi

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