With eyes on expansion, the first out-of-state franchise opens in Oklahoma City
Boca Raton, FL (RestaurantNews.com) Boca Raton-based I Heart Mac & Cheese, a fast-casual concept specializing in customizable, made-to-order macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese and salads, has announced it has awarded its first Area Development Agreement for the state of Oklahoma. This agreement is the first for the chain, which already has operational venues in South Florida.
The agreement, which includes the development of five I Heart Mac & Cheese’s in the Oklahoma City area, was awarded to businesswoman Genevieve “Genny” Prieto. The first restaurant is slated to open in Yukon, OK, on April 16. The address is 12444 NW 10th St., Yukon, OK 73099 (405) 577-6446.
“There were two elements that attracted me to the brand,” said Prieto. “First, the food is phenomenal. I had the opportunity to eat at I Heart Mac & Cheese in Fort Lauderdale back in 2017 and inquired then about franchising. Secondly, the restaurant operator in me immediately saw the value and opportunity in bringing this concept to the Oklahoma City area. There’s nothing like it here.”
The family friendly restaurant specializes in custom, build-your-own macaroni and cheese bowls and grilled cheese sandwiches, and offers a catering division. Diners choose from a variety of pasta or bread, including gluten-free, along with seven different types of cheeses, vegetables, and seven proteins — think meatballs, bacon, ground beef, short ribs and crispy chicken.
Not sure what to build? There is also a signature menu featuring options such as The Cuban with mojo marinated pulled pork, ham, Swiss cheese and dill pickles; The Best of Both Worlds, a baked mac and cheese sandwich with slow-cooked short rib, white cheddar cheese and American cheese finished with BBQ Sauce; and Lobster & White Truffle consisting of Maine lobster, muenster cheese and scallions finished with lobster cream and white truffle oil. A limited time special Yukon BBQ Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese will kick off the opening.
A lifelong franchise industry professional, Prieto was a multi-unit operator of a Domino’s franchise for 10 years, retiring from the pizza business in 2017. While with Domino’s Prieto served on an advisory board and was a committee member of the company’s Women’s Leadership Forum, which is committed to the advancement of women in leadership positions within the organization.
Prior to joining Domino’s, Prieto worked in the construction industry as vice president of operations for a nationwide underground utility and pipeline company.
“We are thrilled Genny has chosen to expand the I Heart Mac & Cheese presence in Oklahoma City. We know these new restaurants will satisfy a growing consumer demand in the local communities,” said Stephen Giordanella, CEO and chairman. “Genny has solid business experience and has proven to be a successful franchisee. She understands the world of franchising. We look forward to building the I Heart Mac & Cheese brand in Oklahoma and beyond.”
The first of five restaurants will open in Yukon; a second store is slated to open in Moore — date to be determined. To celebrate the opening, Prieto has partnered with local non-profit Compassionate Hands, in which the organization will sell limited edition I Heart Mac & Cheese T-shirts and recoup 100 percent of the proceeds.
A unique franchise concept in the restaurant industry since there are no fryers, grease trap systems or hood systems necessary, I Heart Mac & Cheese requires a low investment and can be opened in a small space, such as a mall kiosk or food court. Shopping malls, sports venues, areas close to colleges and universities, and high-traffic pedestrian areas are also ideal locations.
“As we begin our national expansion, we are pleased to be working with an experienced franchisee who has a history of running multiple units successfully,” said President/Chief Development Officer Dan Collins. “I’m thrilled to be here to celebrate with our local team and welcome the customers.”
About I Heart Mac & Cheese
I Heart Mac & Cheese is a fast-casual concept specializing in customizable, made-to-order macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches and salads. The menu combines award-winning recipes resulting in a grown-up approach to this classic childhood dish. The first location opened in 2016 in Fort Lauderdale. Additional South Florida locations include Parkland, Pembroke Pines, Davie and Coral Springs. Boca Raton, FL, and Jupiter, FL, are slated to open in mid-2018. As of fourth quarter 2017, the company launched its franchising program nationwide.