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|Mr. Mac’s Expands into Massachusetts|
|Published Friday, May 19, 2017|
Patrick Cain, owner of Mr. Mac's, in his Manchester location. Photo by Christine Carignan.
Patrick Cain and Valerie Anderson have taken an ooey-gooey childhood comfort food to another level and made it franchise gold.
The brother-sister duo behind Mr. Mac’s first launched their gourmet mac and cheese restaurant in 2010 in Manchester so they could ditch corporate careers. Now their first franchisee, Harry Cheema, continues to grow his Portsmouth location and is adding restaurants in Massachusetts.
Right: Harry Cheema, Mr. Mac's first franchisee. Courtesy photo.
After about five years, “we came to a point where we were ready to grow,” Cain says. He and Anderson worked with a handful of New York-based consultants on expansion plans, all of whom suggested they consider franchising due to Mr. Mac’s unique brand.
The current franchise deal requires an initial investment ranging from $343,200 to $746,500, depending on the scope of build-out costs. That 10-year agreement includes a royalty rate, a brand fund fee and local advertising costs. There is also an initial franchise fee of $35,000.
One of the duo’s consultants connected him with Cheema, a real estate investor who was also interested in leaving the corporate world. Cheema was looking to rejoin the food industry in which he’d grown up, as his parents owned an Indian restaurant.
Though he initially considered franchising with larger chains like Dunkin’ Donuts or Subway, Cheema immediately latched onto the uniqueness of Mr. Mac’s. After 10 months of research and discussions with Cain and Anderson, Cheema signed on in 2016 to open three new restaurants within the next three years.
“You can find places serving burgers or fried chicken around every corner, but mac and cheese is a niche that isn’t as prevalent yet,” says Cheema. “We can market Mr. Mac’s pretty much anywhere.”
A variety of dishes available at Mr. Mac's. Photo by Christine Carignan.
A Bedford native and Nashua resident, Cheema’s focus since “day one” has been on opening these three new Mr. Mac’s in Southern NH and Massachusetts. The first opened late last November at a 3,240-square-foot former Pizza Hut on 2600 Lafayette Road in Portsmouth. Cheema hired Portsmouth-based businesses DeStefano & Associates and DeStefano Architects to renovate the building.
Business in Portsmouth exceeded expectations in December, breaking previous records for daily sales at the Manchester location. Though there was a post-holiday lull in January, NH and Massachusetts school vacations helped sales pick back up in February, and Cheema says the restaurant is on track to meet his 18-month forecast. Cheema currently employs 58 part-time and full-time workers at the Portsmouth location, including five full-time managerial assistants. In order to compete for talent, Cheema offers perks that are not offered at many restaurants, including paid time off to all employees, health benefits to full-timers and profit sharing for all employees after 90 days.
“I hate turnover. It hurts everyone involved,” says Cheema. “I’m focused on retention and ensuring we’re a competitive employer in the area.” By this summer, Cheema plans to expand to a staff of 75 in Portsmouth, an employment goal he’s also set for his second Mr. Mac’s in Tyngsborough, Mass. that is slated to open at the end of April at the former site of a KFC and Sal’s Pizza located right over the Nashua/Tyngsborough line across from the Pheasant Lane Mall.
For his third Mr. Mac’s, Cheema plans on moving further into Northern Massachusetts and anticipates an early 2018 opening date. He’d eventually like to open a Mr. Mac’s in Boston and says the model would thrive in an urban area, an assertion Cain agrees with.
“Moving closer into Boston is possible, but we want to do that carefully since it would cause us to tweak our model and the way we operate,” says Cain. Due to the different demographics in the Boston market, he says, Mr. Mac’s would have to consider offering expanded salad options, for example.
For now, Cheema is touring sites weekly for his third restaurant, including potential locations on the North Shore. But having condensed his three-year franchise agreement into a year and change, he admits he’s not afraid to accelerate his business plan. “I never want to waste time and do anything slowly,” says Cheema. “There’s no limit to the number of restaurants I’ll open; I just want to keep pushing forward.”
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