Financing

Corner Bakery moves forward under its new owner

The fast-casual chain, which emerged from bankruptcy last year, says its sales have surged in recent months. It has brought on new executives and expects to open units this year.
Corner Bakery
Corner Bakery's sales have improved under its new owners. | Photo: Shutterstock

Corner Bakery, which was sold out of bankruptcy last year, has apparently found some life under its new owners.

The fast-casual bakery-cafe chain on Wednesday said that its average unit sales have surged in recent months and that it has brought in a group of executives to rebuild a brand that struggled in the aftermath of the pandemic and its 2020 sale to the owner of Boston Market. It also plans to add new locations for the first time in years.

“Our plan from day one was to invest back into the business in virtually every area,” Chris Dharod, Corner Bakery’s CEO, said in a statement. Dharod is also president of SSCP, the company that acquired the fast-casual chain out of bankruptcy last June, after first acquiring its debt.

“We see so much potential for the Corner Bakery Cafe brand,” he added.

The company brought back a pair of Corner Bakery veterans: COO Erin Hasselgren and VP of Development Bob Hartmann, who collectively have 27 years of experience.

The company also brought in Melanie Barichivich to be head of marketing and Glenn Hurley procurement consultant.

Corner Bakery said that its average unit sales have increased $200,000 in the past six months alone. The company said it expects sales to continue increasing this year, with a renewed focus on catering and “much improved counter sales.”

The brand said that it implemented new training programs and new employee recognition and incentive programs designed to regain trust with the workforce.

Corner Bakery has also brought in Qualtrics to measure employee and customer experience and it is working with Stingray Business and Bite to test kiosks at a pair of locations in Dallas-Fort Worth. It has also enlisted Champion to be its marketing agency.

The efforts follow a difficult few years for the company, which now has just over 100 locations. It operated 182 locations in 2019, before the pandemic, and had held steady at that rate for several years before then.

Corner Bakery says it plans to remodel company units this year and says it expects to open five to seven new restaurants this year.

Founded in 1991, the brand at one point was considered a worthy competitor to the much larger Panera Bread. But it never found its footing, and then the pandemic hurt the urban and business center market on which it relied for much of its sales.

Jay Pandya, a former franchisee of Pizza Hut and Checkers, bought the chain from Roark Capital in 2020. The company stopped paying many of its bills, including one to Ecolab for dishwasher rental.

It also stopped paying many of its vendors without steep discounts. Employees often showed up to work to find padlocks on the door due to unpaid rent or utility bills. The company also lost its Dallas corporate headquarters due to unpaid rent. Vendors sued Corner Bakery 84 times during Pandya’s ownership of the brand.

Goldman Sachs declared the company in default on $43 million in loans in 2022. SSCP, an Applebee’s franchisee that also owns Cici’s, acquired that debt in an auction at a discount and then placed the company into bankruptcy. It was approved as the buyer in June.

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