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Mr. Mac’s, Latest Mac and Cheese Concept, Begins Franchising


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When asked if he thinks that macaroni and cheese could be one of the next big restaurant categories, Patrick Cain, co-owner of Mr. Mac’s Macaroni and Cheese, said, “I do, but don’t tell anybody.”

Given the popularity of the cheesy staple and millennials’ limitless craving for nostalgia, it’ll be hard to keep it a secret for long. As we’ve seen with Sweet Lorraine's Fabulous Mac n' Cheez in Detroit, the macaroni and cheese theme breaks away from the typical burrito, burger, pizza and sandwich concepts seen in so many QSR and fast-casual restaurant chains.

Last month Mr. Mac’s, based out of Manchester, New Hampshire, became one of the latest macaroni and cheese establishments to start franchising. Its new franchise partner, Harry Cheema, will launch up to three Mr. Mac’s locations in southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts, the first of which could be up and running in 90 days.

Cain, a senior executive in the fashion industry for 35 years, and his sister, Valerie Anderson, who worked in hospital administration, started brainstorming business ideas in 2008, after Anderson retired and Cain wanted a change of pace. They settled on the concept of macaroni and cheese, and opened the first Mr. Mac’s in 2010.

The menu includes a variety of entrees, including a taco mac, and lobster macaroni and cheese, a must in the New England marketplace. Mac’s also offers a create-your-own option so adults and children alike can become their own mac and cheese culinary genius, with add-ons such as sweet chili sauce, hot dog slices, and steak.

During its five years of operation, Cain says they’ve averaged a 20 percent increase in sales year over year. Mr. Mac’s has won numerous awards from Trip Advisor and New Hampshire Magazine, and has received coverage from Phantom Gourmet, a New England-based food television program.

Even with a fat helping of good press, Cain and Anderson are being patient with their approach.

“That’s why we invested five years in doing this before we decided to branch out and spread out. We wanted something that we could comfortably take other places,” he said.

As the mac market grows, Cain and Anderson keep tabs on other macaroni and cheese establishments to see what they’re doing right. “It’s a little community,” he said. “We don’t talk to each other, but I’m sure we watch one another through the different media outlets.”

More and more companies are taking the unique concept and running with it. Elbows Macaroni and Cheese out of California recently franchised and added a second location. Macs Macaroni and Cheese Shop out of Wisconsin has three locations, including one in Wisconsin Dells, a popular tourist town.

Over the next few years, Cain plans to limit expansion to the New Hampshire and Massachusetts area. In the future, he hopes Mac’s could expand to the Midwest or the Atlantic Coast.

Currently Mac’s has limited competition in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, likely because the concept is harder to start up than most people realize, he said.

“A lot of people will say, it’s macaroni and cheese, it’s a very easy model to put together. And it’s not,” Cain added. “You have to work it and you have to perfect it.”

That may be debatable, as everyone’s mom likely put her own spin on exactly what constitutes the perfect bowl of pasta and cheese. In the meantime, expect Mr. Mac’s and Sweet Lorraine’s to be just the first two in a line of franchised concepts looking to cash in on the gooey, nostalgia-packed craze.

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Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is associate editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
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Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
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Nancy WeingartnerNancy Weingartner is editor-at-large of Franchise Times magazine and the editor of the Food On Demand media project. You can reach her at 612-767-3200 or at nancyw@franchisetimes.com.
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