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VOL. 129 | NO. 65 | Thursday, April 03, 2014

Toast Cafe Chain Seeks Memphis Expansion

By Andy Meek

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A breakfast-focused restaurant chain called Toast Cafe, described by its CEO as the “antithesis of a greasy spoon,” is looking to expand into Memphis by opening as many as five stores over the next two to three years.

Breakfast-focused restaurant chain Toast Cafe is looking to expand into the Memphis market.

(Submitted Photo)

Toast Cafe co-founder and CEO Robert Maynard said the company’s plan to open three to five stores here would also entail the creation of at least 100 jobs, with 20 to 25 people working at each location. The company, which started in Huntersville, N.C., in 2005, is looking for a franchisee to work with in Memphis, part of a broad expansion that includes seizing what the leadership sees as an opportunity to do for breakfast what a chain like Five Guys did for burgers.

“We’re whatever you think is a good breakfast – on steroids,” Maynard said. “We’re not in the same category as IHOP or Perkins. Those are all in a certain category. We’re definitely a step above. Everything for us is cooked to order that day. You’re going to get more of a premier product with what we have. It’s a high-end product, and it’s a higher-end experience in a causal environment. We’ve got things like peanut butter French toast. Lobster Benedict. On the weekends, we can do up to 15 different specials.”

The result is a company that thinks it has a product and service ready to take beyond its home base, with a franchisee-focused expansion.

Toast Cafe, it should also be noted, isn’t necessarily a stranger to the Memphis market. Maynard said the company is currently working with Memphis-based interactive marketing agency Higher Visibility on a website redesign and search engine optimization efforts, among other things.

About Memphis more broadly, he added the company has studied the area and thinks it’s the right fit for Toast Cafe.

“We’ve already gotten some inquiries from the market there,” Maynard said. “It fits our demographic. It’s a family-oriented vibe.”

Toast Cafe began with friends Brian Burchill and Maynard opening their first breakfast spot in a small house-turned-restaurant. The concept quickly expanded to three locations, and Toast Cafe moved to a franchise system in 2013.

The company’s imminent move into the area is part of an expansion that includes other areas of interest in Tennessee. Maynard said Knoxville and Nashville also are among “some of the real hotspots for us.”

Among Toast Cafe’s signature draws is locally sourced food. The restaurants serve breakfast, lunch and brunch, and to get an idea of the typical fare, the menu at one of the North Carolina locations includes items like cinnamon raisin French toast, avocado omelets and eggs Benedict.

A recent review of one of the North Carolina Toast Cafes reads “I had a meal so delicious that it almost made me depressed, thinking of the mediocre meals that preceded it, and which will certainly come after it.”

“Most Americans are used to the idea of the greasy spoon,” Maynard said. “What we’re known for are things like the idea of every server’s your server. Every server works for you. We don’t have fryers. We don’t have freezers. Everything is cooked to order that day.

“The big deal for us is we’re looking to bring at least 100 jobs to (Memphis) and partner with some really good businesses people out that way. Breakfast is the hottest thing out there. It’s not like burgers or pizza, where you can name 50 burger restaurants off the top of your head. There’s a real opportunity for someone to come in here and kind of own that segment.”

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