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Macaron company grows to 70-plus locations, a 'dream coming true'

The franchise strategy at Sarasota-based Le Macaron has multiple ingredients, with a focus on location, support and high-quality cookies.


Macarons come in 20 flavors at Le Macaron locations.
Macarons come in 20 flavors at Le Macaron locations.
Courtesy image
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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A Sarasota company that started serving French finger food from a St. Armands Circle storefront 15 years ago has found sweet success in franchising. 

The company, Le Macaron, now has 63 stores nationwide, and 53 franchisees, according to Director of Operations Greg Guillem. It also has 12 stores in development from New York to California. 

One new franchisee is planning to open three stores at once in Portland, Oregon, Guillem says, and a family in the Miami area recently launched a food truck, which is going to events. About 85% of franchisees operate brick-and-mortar locations, according to Guillem. 

The company started franchising in 2012, three years after mother-daughter team Rosalie Guillem and Audrey Saba served their first macaroon. 

“A lot of (franchisees) have more than one [store], which shows they love the concept,” says Guillem, who is Rosalie's son. “We are adding new franchisees every month."

Some companies franchise to get their name out in the market and because it can also be lucrative. For Le Macaron, it was a decision based on popular demand. "We had a demand from customers requesting more locations and the chance to franchise themselves," Rosalie Guillem says.

“With the continued increase in demand, Le Macaron hopes to open 15 stores each year," she adds. So far in 2024, she says, seven new locations have opened.

For her son, who oversees the franchisees, his job is a balancing act between serving as an ongoing consultant for the franchisees and as a gatekeeper of the brand.

Greg Guillem is head of operations for Le Macaron.
Courtesy image

“We are refusing a lot of people, because we want to protect existing franchisees,” Greg Guillem says. “We always make sure a new location will not impact sales” at an existing store.

The investment to open a Le Macaron is $91,730 to $454,000, with costs varying based on location and model, according to company franchise documents. “Most people, they dream of a French cafe with a table inside,” Guillem says, adding "site selection is really important."

Part of the company's job is ensuring locations already in business stay in business, Guillem says.

“When they start a franchise with us,” says Guillem, “they become part of the family."


The franchisees

Some franchisees come from business backgrounds, others are scientists, and some are people who want to start a new life, according to Guillem.

Nashville is the top store in sales the company, according to Guillem, who says the family that runs it has three locations. Le Macaron declines to disclose revenue figures.

Another family owns two “really successful” Le Macaron shops in St. Augustine, which are 200 yards from each other in an area filled with tourists, Guillem says. Two children and their parents, including one who was a lawyer in France, run the stores. Now, “they’re living the American dream,” Guillem says.

Foot traffic is key when it comes to picking a spot, according to Guillem, who helps franchisees get set up with the best possible locations.

“I’m learning as much as I teach them,” says Guillem, who sees his role as the link between franchise and franchisee. In addition to site selection, he helps with store design, pricing and training.

“Any question they have, I answer,” Guillem says of franchisees. “They always speak to a human.”

Guillem understands the demands of being a store owner firsthand. He co-owns a Le Macaron in Celebration with Rosalie. Since he has been handling franchisees for the past seven years, his wife now manages the store. “It’s a family business,” says Guillem.


Brand identity

As the company expands around the country, some things will not change. No matter which store people visit, they will always know they are in Le Macaron due to the setting and the product. 

The Le Macaron logo outside and pink wall inside set the ambiance, according to Guillem, who says each location can incorporate different decorations.

“It’s a franchise but it’s also their baby,” Guillem says. “They are done with a career, and they were successful with it. They want something of their own they can work on with their family.”

A lot of times, he says, he recommends adding a personal touch but “keeping the spirit of the macaron.”

French almond flour is the primary ingredient in the macaron, which is a delicate sandwich pastry that should feel light and crisp on the outside and moist and soft inside. Le Macaron offers 20-plus flavors, the most popular of which are vanilla, pistachio, chocolate and birthday cake.

Part of the job of Le Macaron is re-educating people that the food is "not a dry cookie,” Guillem says.

Didier Saba oversees the creation of Le Macaron products from a production facility on Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota.
Courtesy image

His brother-in-law, Didier Saba, oversees the creation of the company's macarons from a facility off Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota. From there, the items are shipped to Le Macaron locations around the country. The confectionery produces 2.5 million macarons per year.

“The product is extremely important,” says Guillem. “It is controlled by us so we are sure [you] would get the same quality in Sacramento or Sarasota so we know the customer will love them."

In addition to macarons, the stores sell other French pastries, gelato and coffee.

With the cost of ingredients and transportation rising, the business has been battling inflation.

“We try to absorb it as much as we can, but the rent price, the entrance price, even minimum wage is going up, so we have to find a good balance,” says Guillem. “We are kind of a luxury item but affordable — that’s important.”

Says Guillem: “We are successful when our franchisees are selling the product. The goal is to keep it this way.”

Correction: This story was updated to reflect correct company data.

 

author

Elizabeth King

Elizabeth is a business news reporter with the Business Observer, covering primarily Sarasota-Bradenton, in addition to other parts of the region. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, she previously covered hyperlocal news in Maryland for Patch for 12 years. Now she lives in Sarasota County.

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