Great American Cookies

Q&A with Christina Chambers, Director of Franchise Development at Great American Cookies

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 industry attractive?
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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