STORES Magazine - October/November 2017 - 42
Capitalizing on "Hub-and-Spoke"
Franchise concept is key to Great Harvest Bread Company's growth
by LEN LEWIS
read! It's long past being just another
product on the retail shelves. It is
indeed the "staff of life" throughout
the world, praised in song and story, in
religion, literature, philosophy and even
As Julia Child put it: "How can a
nation be called great if its bread tastes
There are few things that arouse the
senses more than the smell of freshly
baked bread, a philosophy that has
guided the Great Harvest Bread Company
since its inception in the 1970s. It's
also the strategy that will guide the
Dillon, Mont.-based company's future
as it expands its bakery-cafés into more
markets through a unique new "hub-andspoke" franchise concept.
"Our basic principle is about doing
bread the right way," says Eric Keshin,
president of the company, which now has
STORES October/November 2017
some 200 franchisees in 44 states, most
MAINTAINING THE BRAND
Great Harvest's founders graduated from
Cornell in the 1970s and landed in Great
Falls, Mont., "where some of the best wheat
in the world comes from. Even today, we
source from Montana," Keshin says.
"We're all about making everything from
scratch. Each store has a mill that turns
wheatberry into flour which is then handkneaded and baked. In fact, stores have
to sell the bread within 24 to 36 hours or
donate it to places like local food banks."
The original owners of Great Harvest
got into franchising in the late 1970s and
early 1980s because they didn't want to
run company stores, Keshin says, and
the concept quickly gained favor with
potential owners throughout Montana
Due to consumer demand and growth
of the restaurant business, Great
Harvest began evolving from a pure
bakery into takeout sandwiches and
soups and finally into eat-in bakerycafés with seating for 40-45 people.
These units run from 2,600 to 2,800
square feet and include production
facilities that enable owners to mill
wheat and bake bread daily.
"The original owners really didn't
have a rollout plan. It was kind of word
of mouth. People fell in love with it
and wanted to open one," Keshin says;
the bulk of owners are still single-store
operators, but an increasing number are
opening two or three units.
"We continue to have a great and
original brand story. It's an authentic
brand and the principles we live by have
never changed. In that way, we're similar
to Wendy's or Apple," he says.