Early this year, Paris Baguette revealed a comprehensive brand redesign focused on a celebration of the neighborhood bakery-café as a pillar of communities and of the people in those communities. The refined and reimagined approach includes an elevated guest experience through every consumer touchpoint, including modern and welcoming café layouts, distinguished brand packaging and an enhanced digital and mobile presence.

This game-changing rebrand comes during a time of rapid growth and expansion for the company. Paris Baguette projects to open 1,000 new locations in the United States by 2030; there currently are close to 100 locations primarily located on the east and west coasts.

The brand has recently broken into Minnesota, Maryland and Florida markets, and is expected to sign agreements in Hawaii, Florida and Tennessee. Target markets for the coming year include Washington, California, Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Maryland, with continued development in New Jersey and New York and expansion in some additional states in New England, including Connecticut and Massachusetts.

“We believe that every neighborhood deserves to have its very own bakery café and we’re on a mission to make that happen,” says Pete Bell, chief marketing officer for Paris Baguette. “With the brand evolution, we wanted to push beyond the wonderful service and delicious food offerings guests have come to expect and set the stage for exactly what the ideal café experience should look, feel and smell like. Our new design reinforces our goal to create a heartfelt, authentic and detail-oriented atmosphere that sparks moments of joy, community connection and changes our definition of hospitality.”

Paris Baguette turned to Push, an Orlando-based creative agency with expertise in multi-unit branding and marketing, and Zebra, a global commercial interior design and architecture firm who transform spaces into extraordinary brand experiences, to develop the new vision. Through national consumer research, it was discovered that the association between the local bakery and its community had grown distant, with Paris Baguette in the position to fill that void.

“The warm, long-standing relationship between a bakery and its neighbors has somehow been lost along the way,” says John Ludwig, chief executive officer of Push. “Paris Baguette captures those feelings of welcome and warmth daily; the rebrand is designed to remind people of what they have been missing. It’s a place where they're not only going to see, smell and taste what the brand has to offer, but truly reconnect with their neighbors, family and friends, all in a setting that is inviting, authentic and exciting.”

Defining Community

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As a neighborhood bakery-café, Paris Baguette is part of the fabric of communities it serves. Not only does it look to offer a warm and welcoming space, but also a place for connection and support of the people in their communities. To truly be an integral part of its local neighborhoods, the brand has launched several community initiatives.

Dough Raisers is local fundraising collaboration between community non-profit organizations and schools to “host” a Paris Baguette-style bake sale at their local bakery-café and receive a percentage of proceeds from that day’s sales.

There’s also a “Love Baked In” baked good, in which a portion of the proceeds from a designated cookie will be donated to a local non-profit partner chosen by each respective Paris Baguette location. Likewise, Cake Days will see proceeds on all cakes for one day go directly to the year-round local non-profit partner for each bakery-café, giving those charities a groundswell of donations and support.

Finally, Cake for Every Kid is a random-acts-of-kindness initiative in which Paris Baguette surprises deserving children in bakery-café neighborhoods with “Love Baked In” cakes to help bring smiles to the faces of those in the community that need it most.

Charitable efforts are only one point of Paris Baguette’s community focus. In new cafés that the brand is opening, one wall in each dining room will feature a mural that ties into local landmarks or well-known community figures. For instance, in New York there are famous athletes, the Guggenheim Museum, the George Washington Bridge, taxi cabs and much more.

“When you come in, you actually see the community you live in right up on the walls,” Bell says. “There’s a message within it which says, ‘Love Baked In,’ which is our charitable community mantra. That’s where we do things like giving back and support the community, so we pay it all off with murals on the walls.”

Another point of emphasis is its employees – the people behind its hand-baked pastries and breads, meticulously designed cakes, artisan sandwiches and salads and expertly crafted coffee and tea. A concept called Masters at Work showcases these bakers, cakers and baristas. They’re not working in the back of the house; they’re placed up front so that guests can see what’s being made in real time and who’s making it.

“We wanted to bring them out and really showcase their talent, their skill, their craftmanship,” Bell says. “When you see the product they’re making every day, whether it’s pastries and breads, or these amazing cakes, we’re obviously proud of the product but we’re more proud of the people making it, so we wanted to put them on display.”

Transforming the Store

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The brand redesign is all about putting the people and products front-and-center. When customers walk in the front door, on the right are the cakers in a room with glass. Customers can look through the glass and be mesmerized by these artisans. A similar room houses the bakers working on pastries and breads.

This not only creates a connection between customer and baker, but also allows them into the process, which has become more important in this age of transparency. Personal investment is at the heart of community, something that’s reflected in this redesign.

“The guests see it and it brings credibility. They see it being made so they know it’s fresh,” Bell says. “It really sets us apart. A lot of other bakery-cafés, you don’t see the people making the product. You don’t even know if it’s being made fresh every day, or if it’s coming in from a commissary. We want to put that on display. We want you to see it being made, we want you to smell it being made. When you come into our cafés, it really hits on all five senses.”

Another key aspect customers will notice in the new stores is what Bell refers to as the brand’s Bread and Butter, an increased focus on the products. This includes large two-tier pastry islands filled with various pastries, as well as separate display cases for cakes, sandwiches, salads and breads. This exposes customers to the product almost immediately, including the smell.

Comfort is paramount in the dining experience. Paris Baguette has shifted the flooring in the dining room, with a warm wood-type flooring as opposed to the penny tile that had previously been a trademark of Paris Baguette locations. Add in comfortable seating, warm lighting and window lighting, and it’s all topped off by a warm welcome from employees at the registers.

“As we thought about the design, we wanted to stay true to what the brand stands for: expertly crafted goods made for life’s moments big and small and a pride for the people and neighborhoods that we live in, work in, dine in,” says Ashley Popich, director of interior design at Zebra. “Consumers want more out of every interaction, every touchpoint with a brand. They want to be immersed and have a personalized experience. We translated that into a distinguished environment that could be brought to life through the walls of your local bakery café, your Paris Baguette.”

Embracing the Right Technology

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In response to the changing food industry and the rising demand for fast-casual restaurants to meet customers where they are at, Paris Baguette has been testing the concept of climate-controlled smart lockers at its Edison, New Jersey location, which is its highest-volume café in the entire world.

There is a tremendous amount of cake business done in Edison, so Paris Baguette primarily uses the lockers there for cake orders. However, they can be uses for any item the chain produces because of their versality. With the scan of a QR code, customers can preorder food items from and pick them up from designated, chilled or heated lockers at the bakery.

Speed and convenience is the name of the game in the industry these days, and these lockers will help to achieve a higher level of both. Guests aren’t waiting in line for cakes with other guests buying pastries, sandwiches or salads. When the lockers are eventually tested in more cafés, the temperature versatility allows for additional items to be available, such as a cold salad or a warm pastry.

Digital innovation is a big part of Paris Baguette’s future, but it must be the right innovations. For instance, a self-serve checkout system that is currently being tested would scan what’s on a customer’s tray and they wouldn’t have to interact with cashiers if they’re in a hurry. Another test is happening in the chain’s Scottsdale, Arizona café – which has much more floor space than the average Paris Baguette café – on a robot that runs cakes from the production stage to the cake display in the back of the café.

“What gets our guests excited is that we’re constantly innovating, whether on the product side or the technology side,” Bell says. “Once you get something that’s successful, you have to get right on the next thing and start trying to innovate another avenue that will benefit either your operators or your guests and make the whole experience better.”