Recently Great American Cookies was selected to be part of the Franchise Gator Top 100 Franchises List.
We sat down with Christina Chambers, Director of Franchise Development for Great American Cookies, to talk about the company and its franchise opportunity.
Many franchisors will say they want to "award" franchises and not sell them. What does that mean to your company, and what steps do you take to ensure you are bringing on the right franchisee?
At Great American Cookies, we are fiercely protective of our brand and long history of success. Since we are almost 100% franchised, our success comes from great franchisees that follow the system and maintain brand standards. When we speak with candidates who would like to join the Great American Cookies franchise family, they first prove they can follow a process throughout their discovery phase. This includes showing up for scheduled calls/meetings, thoroughly reviewing the FDD, calling existing franchisees, and presenting their business plan to us.
They also need to have passion, business savvy, and strong community ties, as we know that is one of the best ways to really grow our type of business. During face-to-face meetings at Discovery Day, if any of our executives feel that the candidate is not a good fit, we will not award the franchise. We don't believe in the "fog a mirror and stroke a check" qualification!
Talk to about the level of support that franchisees receive from corporate during their opening, as well as once their business is off the ground.
All new franchisees receive 4 days of in-store training, followed by one week of "GFG University" training to cover items such as financial analysis, customer service, hiring, and marketing. Before that point, however, we provide comprehensive support in identifying the right location, negotiating leases, and construction project management to make sure the store opens on time and on budget.
At grand opening, franchisees are assigned a Franchise Business Consultant (FBC) who will assist with the opening week and employee training. The FBC stays in close contact with the franchisee and visits the store at least twice a year for the life of the business.
Why should a candidate get excited about the opportunity to work with Great American Cookies?
Great American Cookies has been in business since 1977, with some current franchisees in the business almost as long! We have a stable history of growth and an amazing management team who ensures that the brand continues to perform at the top of our category. The operation is simple which provides franchisees the opportunity to easily and quickly grow from one store, to five stores, or even 42 stores (the size of our largest franchisee). This is a really fun business with happy customers cookies always bring out smiling faces!
Founded in 1977 on the strength of an old family chocolate chip cookie recipe, Great American Cookies has set the standard for gourmet cookie sales in a fun, celebratory environment. For more than 30 years, we have maintained the heritage and integrity of our products by producing proprietary cookie dough exclusively from our plant in Atlanta. Known for our signature Cookie Cakes, trademark flavors and menu of delectable products baked fresh in store, at Great American Cookies we Share the Fun of Cookies with each treat we make.
Q: Do you honor U.S. military veteran's discount?
A: We are proud to participate in the VetFran Program and find that military veterans make excellent franchisees. We encourage those individuals to consider becoming a part of our system by offering a 25% Great American Patriot Program discount off the first store franchise fee.
A:The size ranges between 500 and 900 square feet. We also have a kiosk program to expand your store's reach. Kiosks average 250 square feet. We find that areas such as regional malls, lifestyle centers, entertainment complexes, airports and transit stations make excellent sites.
Q: Can I own more than one Great American Cookies location?
A:Absolutely! The low start-up costs and simple operation make it easy to own multiple Great American Cookies stores. A large number of our locations are owned by multi-unit operators, and we highly encourage Area Development.
We have found a few comparable characteristics among our most successful franchisees: a committed, positive attitude; willing to work for success, participate in on-going training and attend brand meetings; passionate about community and building the business. If this describes you, and you meet our minimum of $100K in liquid capital, then you are the ideal candidate for Great American Cookies franchise ownership.
Great American Cookies is currently accepting inquiries from the following states: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Wyoming.
Interested parties should have at least $100,000 in liquid capital to invest.
Describe how Great American Cookies originally conceived/started
The company started from a chocolate chip cookie recipe passed on by the grandmother of one of the founders. He and his partner knew they had a fantastic product, so they decided to open a cookie store in a mall in Atlanta. At first, none of the landlords would talk to them because no one believed they could make money selling cookies. They convinced Perimeter Mall in Atlanta to give them a chance, and that first store is still successfully in operation 35 years later!
What was your
original vision for your company? How has that changed over time?
The original vision for the company was to simply bake the best cookies ever made and share the fun of cookies with customers around the world. That vision has never changed, and by owning the batter facility where the cookie dough is produced, the company has ensured that the heritage, integrity and quality of products have always remained the same.
What do you believe is
the single most important factor when choosing a franchise?
Obviously the numbers have to work, but I also believe that it's very important to choose a franchise that you will enjoy. This enjoyment comes from selling a product or service that you believe in, and working with a franchisor that you respect and will like partnering with for a number of years.
Why should someone choose
your franchise over other similar franchises?
As a 35 year old brand, we have many years of experience defining our systems and processes. The operation is so simple that most of our franchisees quickly expand to multiple units. We are also very diligent in controlling costs so that our franchisees can make as much money as possible, and with our control of the supply chain we have ensured a lower cost of goods than franchisees can find elsewhere in the industry.
What makes your
We are generally a recession-resistant industry, and Great American Cookies' focus on Cookie Cakes for all occasions means that there is always a reason to order our products for birthdays, holidays, graduations, weddings, football games you name it. Our Cookie Cakes which are like very large cookies, custom-decorated with icing -- also create a very loyal repeat customer base. We hear stories of customers who have received a Cookie Cake for their birthday every year for 30+ years, and they pass that tradition on to their children and even grandchildren.
What types of
qualities do you look for in potential franchisees?
While our franchisees don't need prior food experience, we are looking for business-savvy candidates with the ability to control the financial back-end of the business and hire a smiling, energetic staff to create a great customer experience. Ideal candidates are community-oriented with a desire to drive local marketing initiatives within the community, engaged in the business, have an entrepreneurial spirit, and are team players who will follow the system and engage with other owners. You don't have to love eating cookies, but you need to be excited about Sharing the Fun of Cookies!
What do your franchise fees and royalties cover?
The first store franchise fee of $30,000 covers use of our trademarks, proprietary recipes and systems, initial training, real estate assistance in selecting and negotiating a site, and construction project management to get your store built and open at the lowest possible cost. The ongoing 6% royalty and 1.5% marketing fund contribution covers all ongoing support from a dedicated franchise business consultant, online training and webinars, research and development of new products, marketing materials, media placement, and public relations campaigns.
Why has your franchise model been successful?
Quite simply, we have a great product with the right cost structure, and our company has awarded franchises to the right franchise partners to execute the vision of the company. Our tried and true recipe is to focus on maintaining brand standards, deliver stellar customer service, and have a great relationship between franchisee and franchisor.
Where do you see your franchise in 5 years and 10 years?
We will continue with our growth momentum and plan to open 30-40 new stores per year in the United States, plus focus on international development to add 100-300 new global units over the next 10 years.
What is your favorite
advice for new franchisees to help them succeed?
Don't try to reinvent the wheel! When you pick a franchise with a good, proven system and processes, the best thing you can do is follow that system. Take advantage of the franchise "family" you join, as franchisees who have been in the business for a long time are usually willing to share their best practices and are a treasure trove of valuable tips for success.
On average, how long
does it take to start a new franchise from the franchisees point of view?
From the time a candidate contacts us with interest in Great American Cookies, we lead them through a 30-60 day Discovery Process, at the end of which we will award a franchise if the fit is right for both sides. We pride ourselves on getting stores open as quickly as possible after franchise agreement signing. Once the store lease is signed, our average time to open is 181 days.
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