Seattle Opens a Yumm!

The Eugene-based, health-oriented fast food chain will open a franchise store Saturday near Pike Place

By Ilene Aleshire
The Register-Guard

Eugene-based Cafe Yumm! is opening its first restaurant outside Oregon on Saturday, a franchise at 717 Pine St. near Pike Place Market in Seattle.

But it won’t be the last addition, Yumm! president and co-founder Mark Beauchamp said. The company also has registered as a franchise operation in California — “I think in two or three years we will have something in California,” he said. And, he added, “Idaho and Nevada would be possibilities.”

But for now, the company will focus on Oregon and Washington as it once again moves into expansion mode, Beauchamp said.

Cafe Yumm! had put together an aggressive expansion plan prior to the recession that included selling franchises. In 2007, Beauchamp and his wife, Mary Ann, co-founder of the company, told The Register-Guard that their goal was 50 outlets by 2012.

But fuel costs spiked in late 2007. Then in early 2008, commodity prices, including rice — a staple in Café Yumm!’s signature rice-and-bean bowls — followed.

As the recession deepened, credit was not available for people looking to open franchises, Mark Beauchamp said, “and there was a contraction in business in general.”

The company continued to grow during the recession, although not at the pace it envisioned pre-recession. It opened a restaurant at Portland State University in 2010 and one in downtown Portland in 2011. And it continued to expand sales of its sauce in grocery stores, including Whole Foods and Market of Choice.

“The buyer for the regional Whole Foods (office) said we were the most requested product at the Seattle Whole Foods that they didn’t carry,” Beauchamp said, a compliment that continues to leave him bemused.

In addition to Whole Foods, Uwajimayas and Metropolitan Markets began carrying Yumm! Sauce in Seattle, a reversal of the usual trend of restaurants first, grocery stores second, Beauchamp said.

The couple who approached Cafe Yumm! about opening a Yumm! restaurant in Seattle also weren’t typical, he said, mainly because until just before they inquired “they were not familiar with Cafe Yumm!”

But Brad and Jennifer Langford, who previously owned pizza franchises in Washington and Illinois, were looking for a restaurant that would be something different. When they saw the Beauchamps’ ad seeking franchisees in Alaska Airline’s in-flight magazine, they were intrigued.

Brad Langford, who previously lived in Eugene, typed “Hey, anybody heard of Cafe Yumm?” on his Facebook page when he returned home, Beauchamp said. “His Facebook page exploded.”

Langford immediately called Cafe Yumm!

It took about a year to finalize the deal, which is about normal, Beauchamp said. It costs a franchise about $350,000 to $500,000 or $600,000 to open one of the restaurants, including franchise fees and building out the restaurant space.

Franchisees also go through a three-week training program that includes both classroom and hands-on work. And Cafe Yumm! provides continuing support to franchisees, including regular inspections once the restaurant is up and running, Beauchamp said.

“We inspect to make sure they maintain the food service, the quality, branding,” Beauchamp said. “And we meet three times a year.”

The Seattle Cafe Yumm! will be the company’s 12th restaurant — a far cry from the 50 the Beauchamps originally had hoped they would now have. But the growth rate is picking up again for the Eugene company.

“We’re in development for four or five additional locations right now,” Beauchamp said. “Some of our current franchisees are looking for additional locations.”

The Beauchamps also want to continue to open company-owned outlets as well as more franchises.

“You see the construction going on in Eugene, in Portland, in Seattle, everywhere,” Beauchamp said. “Businesses are opening, housing is coming back, we’re getting more inquiries.

“People are feeling more confident.”