CAO Bakery & Cafe, a South Florida retail baker offering a broad Cuban-American-inspired menu, including breakfast, sandwiches and snacks options, is looking to expand through franchise opportunities.
CAO Bakery Holdings LLC currently operates 12 CAO Bakery & Cafe locations in South Florida. The company hopes to expand in other areas in Florida with Cuban-American populations such as Tampa, West Palm and Lake Worth, and college towns like Gainesville and Tallahassee. Additionally, CAO says it is pursuing expansion outside of Florida in areas with large Cuban populations, including New Jersey, Los Angeles, Louisville, Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee. Plans call for 10 new locations in 2021 and 35 additional locations by 2024, the company says.
CAO Bakery is led by Antonio Cao and Carlos De Varona, who previously owned and operated six Vicky Bakery locations from 2008 to 2018, before branching off to launch CAO Bakery & Cafe.
Cao is head of product production, quality control and operations. He is a third-generation baker and pastry chef with more than 20 years of experience. De Varona oversees construction, purchasing, human resources and accounting. Yvette Cao, head of marketing and advertising at CAO, leads all promotional and branding campaigns, grand openings and social media strategy.
The primary product availability is prepared in CAO’s commissary in a single location by skilled personnel and professional pastry chefs.
“Miami is the stomping ground for Cuban bakeries,” Antonio Cao says. “Over the last decade, we have evolved and modernized the neighborhood bakery model into a mainstream, fast-casual concept. As a brand, we would love to see our cafécitos and pastelitos introduced in new cities.”
During the pandemic, all CAO locations remained open and served the community. While in-store foot traffic decreased due to the nationwide shutdown, the company says its bakeries saw an increase in online orders, curbside and third-party deliveries.
“As Cuban food and coffee have become part of everyday life in South Florida, we believe the desire for a Hispanic concept lies in areas outside of our own,” De Varona says. “Franchising gives us the opportunity to grow alongside our partners and scale our concept and products to the market quickly.”