The nearly 90-unit breakfast brand’s VP and head of marketing talks about menu innovation, growth, and franchisee relationships.
Brandy Blackwell is the vice president and head of marketing at Another Broken Egg Cafe, a NextGen casual restaurant franchise known for its breakfast, brunch, and bar offerings. FSR recently sat down with Blackwell to hear how her first year is going, and how Blackwell is playing a role in elevating the brand to new heights through cross-functional menu innovation, marketing strategies, new store growth, and prioritizing franchisee relationships.
Founded in 1996 in Old Mandeville, Louisiana, Another Broken Egg Cafe has since expanded to 89 locations and counting across the U.S. The diverse menu features classic breakfast options like omelets, pancakes, and French toast, as well as unique creations such as eggs Benedict variations and indulgent bites like lemon blueberry goat cheese pancakes and strawberry pound cake French toast.
You’ve been at Another Broken Egg Cafe for just over a year now. What first attracted you to the opportunity and organization?
Funny enough, I lived across the street from the Winter Park, Florida, location of Another Broken Egg. Coming from Dunkin’ which is in the breakfast space, it was my first time in full-serve casual, upscale dining, and I was really intrigued. Breakfast and brunch are trending, and people are wanting to be with each other more than ever, and want a place you can go with your kids and husband for a birthday, or with your girlfriends to go have a pitcher of mimosas. It’s all about amazing, indulgent food and spirited connections that brings people together. After COVID, I needed that, and [the brand] checked every box for me. The brand is healthy and doing well, and has growth, and what I look for is where I can make an impact. If the foundation of the brand is there, I want to help to grow it and build new stores, but you have to have a foundation there.
And what sets Another Broken Egg apart from other players in the rapidly growing breakfast/brunch space?
Being a culinary-forward, driven, and an innovative place that focuses on the menu and beverages. That’s the focal point, and yes we have ambiance and occasions of course, but the food is amazing. We’re very different in our alcohol and our bar. Our cocktail offerings are I think what sets us apart from a lot of other brunch concepts; we do focus so much on it. We offer so much in pitchers, everything is crafted, not cheaply done, and it’s visually appealing, too. We put so much effort on really making sure our bars are actual focal points—we’re not coming from behind and bringing it out of the kitchen. And every time we launch seasonal items, we launch one to two drinks, too. Our Key West Pancakes have margarita-infused whipped cream—you have to be 21 to order them. With that type of stuff, you can be really creative.
What does the menu innovation process look like?
We have a cross-functional team, from operations to finance to marketing, that all meet to flesh everything out before it goes across the executive team’s desk. But we don’t bring anything forward that hasn’t been vetted. To me, what’s really cool is to see that whole staging process, from ideation to fruition, concept to development, come to life.
It’s being willing to be adventurous, within guidelines and parameters, and understanding how to push the envelope. But if it doesn’t work with supply chain or SKU rationalization—we repurpose a lot of what we have and want them to be revenue drivers as well—we want to bring new innovation, but not at a cost where you’re upside down. There are a lot of checkmarks, and the more due diligence you do at the beginning allows you to not get so far down the path with an idea that can’t come alive.
We test with franchisee and corporate locations and get feedback from both, and we have an advisory council. We have 37 corporate stores, and are opening a mix of both. We work hand-in-hand with both franchisees and territory managers for the corporate side to flesh this out before anything ever comes to market.
How have supply chain challenges impacted innovation?
A year ago, there was a fresh mango and strawberry shortage. Sometimes it’s working with the operator and offering, here’s your alternative, and sometimes we just can’t serve that item. It takes a little bit of effort on both ends. Some things, like beef, didn’t cost that much when we came up with an idea two years ago–beef was down, and the idea sounded great. Certain suppliers might not carry it or be delayed.
Innovation comes with the risk. It’s crazy during this time, and you can think much more about it, but not stop doing it. I kind of thrive in that space—finding solutions that don’t just work for marketing or corporate, finding solutions that truly [work for everyone]. Listening to franchisees and operators, and engaging them through the process, is the only way to really truly be successful. Even down to the financials of it, at the end of the day, it’s their business, that’s their baby. I learned early on to talk to operators, and make sure marketing didn’t work in a vacuum.
Speaking of, how would you describe your relationship with franchisees?
I can tell you that I will just pick up the phone and call a franchisee, and ask, what do you think of this. I do things like that all the time, before I even say something to anyone else in the organization. That, to me, is where the source of truth is going to come from—our operators on the frontlines who see it everyday, see the struggles and wins, see what their guests say and what ticket times are, what clogs kitchens up with input and output, and if it is well-received.
Let’s talk about the brand’s growth. You’re at nearly 90 cafes in 15 states, soon to be 16, and are planning on opening 16 more locations this year.
We’re going into Maryland and have our first store breaking into that market, as well as Texas, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, outskirts of Kansas City…a lot of Southeast, and it’s a mix between corporate and franchise. Growth is great. It’s a lot of work, but it definitely energizes and brings positive vibes to the business, and shows you’re moving in the right direction, plus more awareness grows. It certainly is a lot of work cross-functionally, I don’t want to sugarcoat that—it comes with work and sacrifice from the team to make them successful, but it shows that franchisees, current and new, are wanting to build. It’s showing that we’re healthy, and the desire for the brand is out there. What more could you want?