Just Fresh To Biggie Size Company's Development

CHARLOTTE | Friday, July 14, 2006

By acquiring the Just Fresh Bakery Café & Market chain, a local group has taken a major step forward in an effort to become the dominant force in Charlotte's fast-food and casual-dining scene. Reviving the Just Fresh brand represents a fraction of the plans for the company -- called The Front Four -- which includes prominent Charlotte executives Joe Drury, chief executive of Bojangles' Restaurants Inc., and insurance and real estate magnate Cammie Harris. Creating a stable of brands that includes Wendy's, Bojangles', Just Fresh and a still-developing pizza concept will allow the company to gain bargaining power with developers. The goal is to make The Front Four's concepts, covering a range of dining options, the preferred menu of restaurants for new shopping centers across the Carolinas. Developers are looking for groups that have more than one concept to offer, says Jordan Washburn, a partner at Charlotte-based Pace Commercial. For the developer, it means a certain amount of reliability when restaurants are bundled together. The fact that The Front Four has big names such as Drury and Harris doesn't hurt, he says. "It will give them a lot more leverage with the developer." While coming to a developer with a bundle may help build deals on a large scale, it's not likely to reduce lease rates, Washburn says. What it does is get the group in the door, a feat a smaller franchisee is unlikely to accomplish as real estate costs rise and developers look for a broad tenant mix backed by strong finances. The Front Four's first step is to add as many as 15 Just Fresh restaurants here over the next 36 months. The group also is launching an aggressive franchising effort regionally and nationally. The acquisition of Just Fresh, completed last week, includes the Charlotte-based company's 10 locations in the Carolinas and Washington, along with four locations slated to open in Georgia, Kentucky and New Jersey by year end. The Just Fresh headquarters, formerly in Huntersville, have found a temporary home at 8040 Arrowridge Road. Company officials plan to move the headquarters to the SouthPark area, where they will open a Just Fresh restaurant and launch the pizza concept next year -- the first step in crafting a package deal. "The Front Four can bring us the 800-pound gorilla that we were missing," says Frances Bramlett, a Just Fresh operating partner. "We can wield a lot more power in all kinds of ways with name recognition and the ability to drive more traffic." The group's members have a long history of reinvigorating strong restaurant concepts such as Wendy's and Bojangles'. "Everyone brings a different perspective to this because we are a well-rounded group," Drury says. "We all play off of each other." The other executives in the group are Charlottean Keith Stoneman and Darrell Ferguson of Charleston, S.C. To rebuild Just Fresh operations, The Front Four has recruited Dana Sinkler Jr., an entrepreneurial chef and brand builder who owned four successful Just Fresh franchises in Charleston at the same time the chain's Charlotte restaurants were struggling.

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Just Fresh Franchise Systems Inc.
14136 Rivergate Pkwy
Charlotte, NC

Phone: (704) 583-8323
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