From D1 athletics to a breakfast franchise empire: Brianna Keefe shares her secrets to success
College athletes are certainly interested in healthy food and an active lifestyle. But few think of starting a healthy breakfast franchise and inspiring others to become entrepreneurs. That is unless you’re Toastique Founder Brianna Keefe.
Ahead of her time
Brianna was always interested in the restaurant business. But she wasn’t too fond of the standard industry practices. She disliked the way food was commoditized with the focus being only on speed. She had always wanted to open a café but not like the ones she was used to.
Healthy eating hardly seemed a concern for the fast-food giants. While the emphasis was placed on convenience – mostly to the restaurants – Brianna knew things could be better.
The D1 athlete wanted to serve food that she and athletes and other health-conscious people would love. It had to have proteins, the right fats, and carbohydrates. Also, it had to be easy to carry. None of that leaky, messy fast-food that most outlets dish out.
The breakthrough idea
So, she experimented in college. You know, with toasts. They’ve been a breakfast staple for generations but as Brianna realized, little had been done to reinvent the good old toast. She worked to change that, creating delicious gourmet toasts that were as healthy as they were appealing.
But she didn’t want to limit her offerings to healthy toasts. They had to be complemented by equally healthy options that you normally wouldn’t think of pairing with toasts. She found her answer in cold-pressed juices, smoothies, acai bowls, and others. By adding toasts to juices, she rightly felt that “you’re adding a whole new level to the business.”
Now, her menu looked healthy, different, and wholesome. All that was left was finding the right spot to open her breakfast franchise.
A spot by the water
She found it while on a walk in The Wharf area in Washington DC. Brianna saw the location and immediately could imagine her healthy cafe and juice bar there. She “fell in love right from the start.” The next step was building an outlet that was minimal, elegant, exciting, and welcoming.
Which was a challenge that her boyfriend, Kyle Izett, with a background in commercial construction, gladly accepted. From designing to building, it took just 40 days. In a little over a month, Brianna Keefe’s dream came true in the form of Toastique’s first location.
But what happened next was beyond her wildest dreams.
It would be an understatement to call Toastique’s first franchise location a success. In its first year of operation, the outlet brought in over a million dollars in revenue! What makes it exceptional is the fact that the Founders did nothing to market their brand.
Customers just fell in love with her gourmet toasts and healthy smoothies. Those who had a taste of Toastique wanted more and became repeat customers. There was also significant word-of-mouth marketing from existing customers that brought in new visitors.
The brand started gaining traction without any promotional push. There were no giant hoardings, no newspaper ads, and no digital marketing campaigns. It was people experiencing a product, loving it, buying it again, and sharing it with their friends and families.
Toastique opened its second breakfast franchise in under a year and the third in less than two years, finding success in each new market even despite the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying challenges. With more Franchise Owners joining the brand, the future looks exciting for this brand that’s redefining the brunch experience for thousands of customers.
For the Founder, this has been more than an entrepreneurial journey. It’s the validation of her beliefs and confirmation that customers will always support a venture if it solves their problems and adds value to their lives.
That’s one of the primary lessons an entrepreneur can learn from Brianna. Focus on your product first. When launching your business, it’s easy to get caught up in the administrative chores. But to make a difference, an entrepreneur needs to put all their energies into making a product that’s unique, appealing, and hugely relevant.
No amount of marketing or public relations can save a half-baked product. Eventually, customers will know the truth, and the business will suffer.
Not transactional but experiential
Brianna was always keen on making Toastique an experience rather than a mere outlet. Everything from the design of the place to its menu to food presentation was created as an exciting and meaningful experience for the visitors.
As she states, the intent was to deliver a “destination where you can enjoy a whole meal and a whole experience.” That’s one of the reasons Toastique won the coveted Best New Restaurant of DC in 2019. Yes, in the first year of its operations!
Create a culture
The unique toasts and cold-pressed juices are only part of what Toastique offers. It’s also elegantly user-friendly. Brianna always knew that what Toastique offers should be “easy to understand” and not packaged in pretentious language, or design.
“Everything here is good,” says the former athlete. “We’ve created a culture that makes people want to come back.”
Multiple revenue streams
What makes Toastique successful in exceptionally challenging circumstances is that it offers Franchise Owners several revenue streams. Customers can dine-in, take out, or get their orders delivered.
In a world where contact-less ordering is on everyone’s minds, this format flexibility has served the brand well. Plus, Franchise Owners can also cater to events.
Toastique is looking for Franchise Owners across the US. We’re looking for strong candidates with commitment and a desire to build a healthy food brand that’s rooted in the community it serves. If you have any business management or food industry experience, it will be a significant advantage.
As Franchise Owners have found out, the relationship between the Founder and new Owners isn’t purely functional. Brianna and her team will guide and help you along the way to ensure your success. There will be comprehensive training on all aspects of running a Toastique outlet.
Click here to learn more.