Brioche Doree plans a U.S. invasion

Le Duff America sells off other concepts as it plans to expand its parent company’s legacy concept in the States.

Le Duff America has been clearing the decks for its Parisian bakery chain, Brioche Doree, to make a big push in the U.S.Le Duff, a subsidiary of the French restaurant company Groupe Le Duff, recently sold a pair of Canadian concepts, Timothy’s World Coffee and Mmmuffins, to the brand collector MTY Food Group. That followed its sale of Bruegger’s Bagels last year to Caribou Coffee.

It’s all part of an effort to get Le Duff back to its French heritage in the U.S. A big part of that effort involves Brioche Doree.

“This is our transition for growth,” says Julie Hauser-Blanner, Brioche’s U.S. president. “It’s our moment of joy.”

Dallas-based Le Duff America is planning to build units in Washington, D.C., this year, and then in Chicago starting in 2019, as part of a plan to start a beachhead from which it can expand the brand rapidly through franchising.

“It’s important for any brand to have corporate locations to have credibility and help with training, the food and the process,” Hauser-Blanner says. “We are proving the model to them. That’s only fair. It’s showcasing yourself.”

Brioche already operates 25 units in the U.S., all of them in nontraditional locations such as airports. But the company is making plans to build three traditional units in Washington, then move on to Chicago and other larger markets where the chain’s offerings might play well.

Brioche is Groupe Le Duff’s legacy brand, founded by Louis Le Duff in Brest, France, in 1976. Brioche has more than 500 units worldwide. It operates 15 locations in Canada, mainly in Toronto and Montreal.

There are plenty of bakery-cafe chains in the U.S., but few that are like Brioche, which has a decidedly French flair—including an on-site oven where it bakes its croissants and other pastries and breads fresh.

To Hauser-Blanner, that’s a major selling point. She says that the on-site bakery gives the chain an advantage over competitors that “keep guests guessing as to where [food] was prepared.”

“The centerpiece of our entire environment is our oven,” she says. “It’s incredible. You smell it, you see it. There’s visibility from front to back. Nothing is hidden from the guests. It’s our culture.

“Our food has a story. We tell that story in front of them.”

Le Duff hopes that the chain’s relative uniqueness could help it overcome a challenging and competitive U.S. market. No other country has as many restaurants, and it is often difficult for foreign-based chains to make much noise on American soil.

“The Parisian bakery style is low in competition,” Hauser-Blanner says. “It’s a unique sector for this type of consumer. There is definitely an appeal, a need, and a space for it.”

She says the chain’s flexibility could help it compete, too.

“I don’t think it’s ever easy. There’s a lot of competition,” she says. “But our nimbleness in innovation, bringing a culinary vision from France to the United States, is interesting to people. That will differentiate us.”

But the chain is working to ensure that its menu will be well-received by U.S. consumers.

Brioche has a chef who is working on new products and limited-time offers. The company is also determining its core menu items, and the chain will work to adapt those items to U.S. tastes.

“We don’t level-set ourselves, but are constantly looking forward,” Hauser-Blanner says.

“Consumers tell us we’re the respite, and they’re stepping into another life when they dine with us.”