Paris by Way of Seoul
Travel to cosmopolitan, huge Seoul, South Korea, and you’ll see a taste of Paris on nearly every street corner, as Paris Baguette Bakery Café is nearly as common there as Starbucks are in New York. Well, truth be told, Seoul has more Starbucks than NYC, but that’s beside the point.
Today’s version of the Korean-based bakery cafe was born in 1988 and has more than 3,500 locations worldwide. Paris Baguette Bakery Café is taking its time, rather than uncorking explosive growth, by building infrastructure and preparing for a slow, steady, long-term expansion of Paris-inspired treats and sensibilities here in the United States.
Pastries at PBBC range from sweet to savory, but generally are lighter and less overtly sweet than very sweet American-style baked goods, said Larry Sidoti, the company’s chief development officer tasked with the pending American expansion.
“Because we’ve been around for so long, we’ve perfected the baking process as a company,” he said. “The product is just off the charts, but it’s not quite as sweet as what Americans are used to.”
Beyond sweet stuff for breakfast or snacks, its goods include savory items for lunch and dinner dayparts. Other differences are apparent, as well, including a combination of self-serve and counter-style service.
“You can walk through rows of pastries and grab whatever you want and however much you want, and then we also have counter service for our cakes and made-to-order sandwiches,” Sidoti said.
While Paris Baguette Bakery Café has been in the states for 10 years, its growth has been limited as it has laid the foundation for a large-scale franchised expansion.
“We have a bigger opportunity in the United States because there’s greater densities throughout the country and population centers are much larger,” Sidoti said. “We’ve set this foundation with corporate stores and support centers in our key development markets to prepare for this next step.”
Those support centers are located on the West Coast, the Northeast and one location about to open in the Southeast U.S., which will mirror where its next phase of restaurants are placed.
“We’re still at the very front end of the business cycle,” he said. “To have the run that we’ve had, not only in the U.S. but worldwide, is pretty telling and we’re just getting started—we haven’t even told the world what we do.”