March 23, 2011
By Kenan Dunston
DC Restaurant News Examiner
The restaurant scene in Washington DC has been blasting off in recent years. Acclaimed chefs the likes of Wolfgang Puck, Alain Ducasse, Laurent Tourondel, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Michael Mina have all opened upscale dining concepts in DC and the fast casual space appears pretty attractive also. Bobby Flay, Richard Blais of Top Chef Fame and Laurent Tourondel have all been rumored to have burger concepts planned for Washington DC.
So what’s an average Joe with no Michelin stars to do to get in on the bourgeoning food scene in DC? Check out the International Franchise Expo at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center April 1-3 for answers. Event promoters are expecting upwards of 10,000 attendees, many wannabe restaurateurs, from all walks of life to attend cashing in on chance to speak directly to franchisors and get a firsthand account of what it means to be a franchisee.
Large chains are paying attention to how much Washington DC area diners eat out. Bojangles’, a chicken and biscuit chain with close to 500 locations and $700 million in annual sales, is opening its first-ever location in D.C. on April 4, 2011. Bojangles’ already operates three restaurants in Washington’s Maryland suburbs and plans to add 3-5 additional locations in D.C. and Maryland in the next few years.
Another franchise concept that can’t lose lately is frozen yogurt. "Froyo" may only trail cupcakes and burgers when it comes to popularity of new dining concepts in the Washington DC area. Tangy Sweet, Mr. Yogato, Sweet Green, Yogiberry and Yogen Fruz have dotted the area with frozen yogurt chains popular for churning out healthy frozen treats.
Yogen Fruz, recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as the number one franchise in the world in 1999 among the Franchise 500, already has six locations in the D.C. area and will open four more locations in the near future. But thats not all the popular chain has in mind for the DC area - with sights set on DC as a “keystone market”, you may soon see a Yogen Fruz on every corner. Thirty to forty additional outlets are slated to open in or near the Nation’s Capital over the next 3-5 years.
Sure foodie types don’t like chain restaurants, but what would fried chicken be without Popeye’s? The Washington DC area has proven viable for not only chef driven independents, but also large chain eateries. For those that do not have star-chef credentials, franchising a chain restaurant may be the easiest way to get your feet wet as a restaurateur. But eager restaurant owners take heed, “Whether you buy a franchise, or start from scratch, starting a restaurant is hard work” Alisa Harrison from the International Franchise Association warns. So get ready to roll your sleeves up!
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