Q&A With Mark Mele, Chief Development Officer

Paris Baguette’s Chief Development Officer discusses what makes the brand unique, recent milestones and what’s to come.

Paris Baguette, the bakery café concept with 4,000 units worldwide, is amid an exciting growth trajectory, and it has no signs of slowing down. As the brand aims to establish 1,000 U.S. units by 2030, Mark Mele, chief development officer, discusses why now is a great time to invest in the brand and how Paris Baguette stands out within the fast-casual space.

1851 Franchise: Why is now the time to invest in the fast-casual industry?

Mark Mele: I think we're moving in a better direction from a market that was depressed due to COVID-19. We seem to have turned a corner from that standpoint. Even though the economy seems a bit lackluster at this moment, I think there are a lot of people that are sitting on the sidelines with money to invest in something like the bakery café space. We are seeing that now with the amount of franchise sales activity through the first half of the year.

1851: How does Paris Baguette differentiate itself from other fast-casual brands?

Mele: Fast casual is the overall category and Paris Baguette is in the bakery café space of the fast-casual segment. So for us, we’re a real bakery, baking every day, and other fast-casual “bakery-type” brands usually end up being more of an eatery, where they're offering more salads, sandwiches and soups — and less on the baking. The key point of differentiation for us is that guests will see us baking fresh in our cafés on a daily basis. Every day, fresh baked offerings, from pastries, breads, baguettes and cakes.

1851: What are some key milestones from recent years?

Mele: If you look at the history of the brand in the U.S., I would say that I'm very proud that we began franchising in 2015 in the U.S. and now we're at just over 100 units, and that's a pretty short period of time. We're still an emerging brand.

But some of the other milestones that I'm very proud of are the fact that we have executed 190-plus franchise agreements in the last 20 months, and that's pretty incredible. So you need to sustain a pipeline of sales in order to execute leases in order to get to the construction funnel, and we're well on our way. So that's kind of a big deal — to have those funnels set up and working properly in order to achieve our goals.

1851: Why is now the time to invest in Paris Baguette?

Mele: Well, again — for those that are interested in opening up their own business and they have that entrepreneurial spirit inside of them — I think the economy is going to be in a better place in six months, eight months, a year from now. So now's the time to really build the foundation. Since it’s a new, hot, emerging brand in the U.S., you really just want to go in and cherry-pick the market.

People understand and realize once they look into Paris Baguette that it's a global brand with over 4,000 units, and it’s just now starting to gain traction in the U.S. So they realize how successful we've been across the globe and that now the U.S. is one of the last major markets to expand into — that in itself makes it a great opportunity.

1851: What’s next for Paris Baguette?

Mele: I think for us, it's about refinement. Anytime you go from 30, 40, 50 or 100 units up into the 150–200 unit range, you have to constantly find the right people from a staff perspective to guide franchisees accordingly.

Why do people want to get into franchising? It's about the support. So the more franchisees that you have in place, you've got to offer up the appropriate support. Whether it's a single unit or a multi-unit operator, you've got to have the right people on board that can assist with the operations, the marketing, the training and everything else that goes with it. I think we're more buttoned up than we've ever been, and that will only get better as we progress.

The total investment to franchise with Paris Baguette ranges from $635,765 and $1,693,600, including a $50,000 franchise fee. For more information, please visit: