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Column: Restaurant franchises plot growth in Maryland and D.C.

Michael Gioioso, MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate
Michael Gioioso, MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate - Courtesy of MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate
What do a Korean coffeehouse, a fast-casual Mediterranean joint, a sports bar and grill, and a quick-service chain promising healthful dishes have in common? These are some of the franchises that are expanding in the mid-Atlantic.
I came across Caffe Bene, Taziki’s Mediterranean Café, Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar and Muscle Maker Grill while attending the International Franchise Expo in New York City this summer.
The conference drew a record attendance of 18,627 visitors to the Jacob K. Javits Center in Manhattan. While wading through the sea of people and exhibitors, I found that at least half of the franchisors on display were food related.
Familiar fast-food concepts such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King were joined by dozens of successful, regional brands targeting expansion along with brand new entries to the world of franchising. Canvassing the show looking for my hopeful next client and live bodies to show my restaurant listings, I came across a lot of newer restaurants that are considering or in the stages of planning growth in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia.

Though there are many federal and state regulatory hurdles to clear when it comes to franchising, I heard some optimism. Development directors cited successful franchises like Chipotle and Panera and touted the area’s higher than average household income, population density, and discretionary spending.
Here is some more information about the food franchises eating their way into our area.
Caffe Bene
Concentrated in New York and Los Angeles, Korea’s leading coffee brand Caffe Bene has been eyeing other U.S. cities. The European inspired coffee house is expected to open its inaugural Maryland location in Ellicott City later this year, according to Franchise Development Manager Min Hong.
Taziki’s Mediterranean Café
Inspired by a vacation to the Greek isles more than fifteen years ago, Taziki's President Keith Richards (no, not that Keith Richards) was determined to create a quick-service restaurant specializing in the unique flavors of the Mediterranean. Though currently the majority of Taziki's 27 units are located in Alabama, the brand has recently entered two franchise food proving grounds, Atlanta and Denver, and is enthusiastic about growth in the mid-Atlantic in the coming years.
Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar
A 10-unit casual sports bar and grill chain based in Harrisburg, Pa., Arooga’s took home "Sysco's Next Great American Franchise Award" last year. Taking spaces that range from 6,500 to 10,000 square feet, the emphasis is on sports and classic American cuisine.Though it has yet to acquire its franchise rights in Maryland, the company’s goal is to enter Maryland and Northern Virginia within the next three years. 
Muscle Maker Grill
A quick-service restaurant for the health conscious, Muscle Maker Grill has been serving residents of New York and New Jersey since 1995. The chain has been accommodating the needs of vegetarians, those on a gluten-free diet and dieters with a handle of menu of items that contain fewer tha 400 calories. Franchise Development Manager Ben Ross said one franchise had looked in Federal Hill and Canton but opted on a market in his home state of New Jersey. But he said that eventually, someone would tap into Baltimore, Towson and Washington, D.C.

Michael Gioioso is a real estate advisor at MacKenzie Commericial Real Estate Services LLC. He can be reached at [email protected]

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