Martin Desmarais  reports at IndUS Business Journal that new franchise chain Freshii is in the middle of an aggressive expansion campaign and the brand is counting on a number of  South Asian franchisees to lead the way.

Recent franchise deals for the Chicago-based concept include a 30-store deal with Sumeet Goel in Philadelphia, a 20-store agreement with Dhavel Patel and Hetal Patel in New York, and a three-store pact with Kam Khela in Toronto.

“The Indian community for us is an unbelievable partner,” said Freshii CEO Matthew Corrin, who originally launched the concept in Toronto in 2005. Freshii is a build-your-own format focusing on breakfast, lunch and mid-day snacks on the go, with an emphasis on fresh produce and vegetables and healthy fare. Freshii features salads, burritos, wraps, rice bowls, yogurts and soups. Locations range from 150-square-foot kiosks to 1,500-square-foot restaurants.

Canada-native Corrin got the idea for the concept while working in New York City for several years after the turn of the century. He said he was never satisfied with the quality of fresh offerings at standard New York delis and figured there was a better way to offer fresh food on the go — and to brand it.

He put his plans into action after returning to Canada — opening up the first Freshii store in Toronto in 2005. In three years, Freshii opened seven more stores in Toronto and one in Chicago, all corporate owned. However, franchising beckoned the burgeoning brand.

According to Corrin, his vision for Freshii has always been to first grow the concept with corporate locations in order to get out the brand name, but then turn to franchising. And his experience in the first three years of running Freshii only reinforced the eventual franchising strategy.

“We realized in the first three years that there was an interest in this because we got many franchise [inquiries],” Corrin said. “We realized there are some really great people completely aligned with what I’m trying to do with Freshii.”

Viewing the United States as a key to franchise expansion, Freshii moved its headquarters to Chicago. In 2009, the first franchise location opened in Chicago.

All expansion since has been franchise locations. Freshii currently has approximately 20 locations and plans to hit the 25-location mark by the end of this month. According to Corrin, there are 250 locations under development and the chain expects to have 100 locations in the next two years. The hope is to hit as many as 40 by the end of this year. On the horizon locations are opening in New York, San Francisco and Nashville, Tenn. Other deals target Chicago, Houston, Denver, Washington, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, as well as internationally in Calgary, Canada; Vienna, Austria; Dublin, Ireland; and London. “2010 is purely focused on franchised growth and we will do some more corporate growth in 2011,” Corrin said.

Freshii is targeting multi-unit franchisees with a 3-5 store minimum, according to Corrin. “We are looking for people not buying themselves a job, but trying to build a meaningful business,” he said.

Freshii’s CEO Corrin is putting a lot of faith in Dhavel Patel and Hetal Patel to bring Freshii to New York City, the place which inspired him to start the concept to begin with.

The brother-in-laws have inked a 20-store deal for New York City. They plan to open a handful of stores first and then find other franchisees to continue expanding the chain in the city.

Both natives of Amrabad, India, the pair have been in the franchise business since 2001 and 2002 when they both opened Dunkin’ Donuts stores. They currently operate seven Dunkin’ Donuts locations in New Jersey.

Though they plan to continue with Dunkin’ Donuts, they were quick to jump on board with Freshii. “We didn’t have any opportunity to grow anymore with Dunkin’ and we see a good opportunity with Freshii so we signed on,” said Dhavel Patel. “We are looking for new opportunities all the time and ways to grow.”

Both said the concept is what sold them quickly.

“We want to target health-conscious people,” said Hetal Patel. “New York City has more health-conscious people and I think Freshii is the brand for this.”

“I heard a lot of good things about Freshii so we went to check it out,” said Dhavel Patel. “We went to Chicago and spent a week there • we really liked what we saw.

“We saw a brand we liked and we moved on it,” he added.

According to Patel, they researched the brand for about six months, which included a visit to Toronto to see some of the original locations. Corrin also made a big impression on the Patels. “We are very comfortable with the company,” said Dhavel Patel. “I know we will be definitely successful at it.”

Corrin has no doubt about the pairing, particularly due to their background as Dunkin’ Donuts operators, which he believes gives them the experience to generate and handle a large volume of business. “The key to success is you need to be able to have a massive throughput,” he said. “Dunkin’ Donuts does this the best • [the Patels] understand completely what it is all about.”

Even as the New York City faces of Freshii continue to push toward the opening of locations in the city, franchise buzz is building. “We already see excitement. We are already getting interest from people,” said Dhavel Patel. “People are serious about this brand. We are getting a lot of calls.

Read More at: IndUS Business Journal