Restaurant-industry veteran takes the helm of fast-growing brand and lays out ambitious plan that includes expanding to 1,000+ locations
Tamala Fowler knows how to grow restaurants. Her long and successful career in management, operations and retail sales for popular chains such as Olive Garden, TGI Friday’s and Dickey’s Barbecue Pit are testaments to that. Now she’s bringing her operational savvy and eye for capitalizing on trends to Gigi’s Cupcakes franchise as its new president.
Already she’s set ambitious short- and long-term goals, including opening 15-20 new shops in 2018 alongside a more far-reaching goal of reaching 1,000+ franchise locations. As Gigi’s marks its 10th anniversary, Fowler sat down to talk about why she wanted to be part of the Gigi’s story, what her growth strategy looks like and why owning a Gigi’s Cupcakes franchise is a smart and attractive investment opportunity for entrepreneurs.
What was appealing about Gigi’s Cupcakes, specifically?
The potential. The brand is really strong for all kinds of markets — urban, small-town and everything in between. I have been with growth Brands and that’s exciting, and it’s fun. I wanted to bring that growth initiative to Gigi’s and take it to a more national level.
What are your long-term goals for Gigi’s?
We’d like to have 1,000 locations in the United States. We feel like there’s definitely space, and the market is out there. Right now we’re in 23 states, primarily in the Southeast and Midwest. There’s a ton of potential out there on the coasts. We also would like to open some restaurants internationally.
The last six years that I was at Friday’s, I worked on the international team. I was the Managing Director for the Asia-Pacific territory, and based on that experience I think that Gigi’s has a ton of potential internationally. It’s a very specialized brand. It’s got a lot of appeal as a very authentic, American-style dessert, and it requires a small space. Gigi’s has all of the things that make a brand more viable internationally.
What makes Gigi’s unique?
We have best-in-class product. We truly do. This is what drew me to Gigi’s, and why I’m so excited about it. We do competitive shopping all the time. We have products shipped in, and we go out to other shops and other national bakery chains. I can just tell you, objectively, our product is better.
Why is now a good time to invest in a Gigi’s franchise?
We’re large enough to have some pretty solid resources, but we are not so big yet that you get lost in the crowd. If you look at the growth trajectory of every brand, there’s been that sweet spot; if you got in when they were on the uptick and starting to grow, there’s a lot of momentum and excitement. We’re still a small company, but we don’t intend to stay small. I think people who join the brand now will look back and say, “I got in just when they were taking off.”
What are you looking for in a Gigi’s Cupcakes franchise owner?
A person who is engaged in the business. All food service is emotional to a point. It’s very hands-on; we call it a high-touch, low-tech business. Food service is about sharing with other people and preparing things to delight others. An ideal owner is someone who enjoys that component of it, who wants to be engaged in their store, who is involved in their community and who also can do the business-to-business selling component.
What are your geographic targets in 2018?
We’re looking to fill out markets where we already have a presence. The business was founded in Nashville, but our new home in Dallas-Fort Worth, so we’re going to have some corporate stores as well as franchise stores there. We would like to build out and get some traction there.
At the same time, we’re looking very heavily at Nashville, Charlotte and Atlanta as our primary targets for the remainder of 2018.
As entrepreneurs evaluate Gigi’s, what should they consider as they decide if it’s a good fit?
It’s really about making sure that you’re the sort of person who wants to be face-to-face with the consumer. You could have a passion for cooking and be a chef in a restaurant, but there you have very little guest interaction. Not so in a Gigi’s. A bakery is a very small and intimate type of business, so I think the person has to look at that model and spend time in our units. They need to see if they love it — both the face-to-face guest interaction and working very closely with a small team of bakers and decorators in the back of the house.
The best way to find out if you’re a fit is to just spend time with us, which is one of the things that we’ve put into place. We added a ‘Day in the Life’ program a few months ago where our franchise prospect spends a whole day with us; coming in in the morning, baking, decorating and doing customer service throughout the day.
What else do you want potential franchisees to know as they research Gigi’s?
They need to know that there is an incredible amount of commitment to the brand from our owners. The two partners of the private equity group who bought Gigi’s have bought and sold 18 businesses in their careers over 30 years. They’ve always been successful. They’ve always made improvements and strengthened the companies. They’re more excited about Gigi’s than any other brand or company that they’ve ever worked with, and they are so engaged with
the personality of the brand.
If you take their past track record as any indication, they are going to put all the resources they have toward it until our vision is met and Gigi’s Cupcakes is a coast-to-coast, 1,000-store and even international presence.
Gigi’s Cupcakes has grown from a single store near Nashville’s Music Row in 2008 to the most sought-after gourmet cupcake and bakery franchise in the country. With franchise locations in 24 states across the U.S., our rapid growth and robust model elevates the business of celebrating life events into a great franchise opportunity with low footprint and build-out costs. Now is a great time to invest in a Gigi’s cupcake and bakery franchise. We have powerful national buying power — which lowers operating costs — and we’ve leveraged the latest technology to help streamline digital and online ordering, which enables our franchisees to tap into the lucrative celebration business far beyond the four walls of their franchises. For anyone with a passion for making people smile, Gigi’s is an amazing and affordable franchise opportunity.
Learn more about opening a Gigi’s Cupcakes bakery franchise
There’s never been a better time to join the Gigi’s Cupcakes franchise family. We are actively recruiting new franchisees across the country. If you’re passionate about business ownership and serving your community, we want to talk with you. Find out more by visiting our research pages or requesting a copy of our free Franchise Information Report.