If imitation is flattery, then Matthew Corrin should be feeling pretty good right about now. Not only did a European entrepreneur emulate his fresh fast-food concept, Freshii, in Vienna, but the same entrepreneur recently decided to retire the competition in favour of becoming a Freshii franchisee.
Corrin came up with the idea for Freshii in 2004, while living in New York doing PR. “I was eating in a lot of delis and the quality was great, but there was no branding,” he says. “I saw an opportunity ?to ‘Starbucks-ize’ the fresh-food business.”
His first location, a sleek white space serving custom salads to the Bay Street crowd, opened in Toronto in 2005 under the name Lettuce. By the end of 2007, Corrin had opened five more Toronto locations. Business was booming — but Corrin, who had planned to roll out his brand corporately like Starbucks, couldn’t keep up. “We were growing too fast,” he admits. “Training and food quality were suffering.” When he opened a Chicago location in 2007 under the name Freshii, he caught the interest of local entrepreneur David Grossman. “The economy was cratering, so suddenly you had all these experienced people with nothing to do — credible businesspeople with high net worth.” Grossman became his first franchisee, committing to opening 20 stores in five years.
With four stores set to open by year’s end, Freshii will boast 20 restaurants in Canada and the U.S. Thanks to savvy partnerships with franchisees, that number stands to hit 100 worldwide by the end of 2011.