PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY I HEART MAC AND CHEESE
Mac and cheese lovers, brace yourself. The first I Heart Mac and Cheese franchise in California will open in November in downtown Palm Springs.
Ah, the smell of melted cheese in the morning, noon, or night. Customers can either choose traditional mac and cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich from the menu, or they can build their own bowl or sandwich. There is a huge selection of sauces, cheeses, vegetables, proteins and toppings to choose from, says Blu Bryan, CEO and founder of BMC Foods, which will operate the franchise at the corner of Indian Canyon Drive and Arenas Road.
Bryan says Facebook marketing for the franchise initially caught his attention, and then he and his team climbed into a car and drove to Tempe, Arizona to sample the food at a franchise there. Bryan says his menu favorite quickly became the “Best of Both Worlds Grilled Cheese Sandwich”, which is a baked mac and cheese sandwich with spare rib, white cheddar cheese, and American cheese, and then finished off with barbecue sauce.
Bryan, who has been living in Palm Springs for four year after transplanting from San Francisco, immediately saw a connection between the franchise and the desert. “Palm Springs is such an adult playground,” he says.
“The popular comfort food mac and cheese would be a great combination with adult beverages including beer choices from micro-brews,” which they will also offer in the new restaurant.
Palm Springs Life spoke further with Bryan on when he plans to open in Palm Springs and why this was a good venture.Why is Palm Springs such a good location to try this?
There's nothing else like I Heart Mac and Cheese in Palm Springs. Especially in the downtown location, there are not many restaurants that are open late. I think the only place that you can go after the bars close is Jack in the Box. We're also serving our food quickly. Our guests are not going to be waiting a long time as in some of the sit-down restaurants that are full-service places.
I really like that it's right there in our district, in close proximity to the gay bars. It's close enough to the hotels as well. That makes it also convenient for visitors to Palm Springs.
Tell me about BMC Foods. How long has it been around?
I had to create the company in order to be able to open the franchise. Therefore I needed a corporate name for the LLC. I thought the best name would be the initials to the first names of my dogs: Baxter, Max, and Cooper.
Do you have a background in food service?
My first job in San Francisco was as a hotel and restaurant manager. I've also worked for local chains when I was a teenager. I do have a lot of background in owning businesses, both a pet-sitting service, salons, spas and a medical spa in San Francisco.
Did you foresee taking your company in this direction and why is it now a good time to do this project?I just felt the time was right. I had the time to do something here in Palm Springs, and I'm not afraid of Covid. I think the restaurants did pretty well with outdoor seating. As I mentioned, I Heart Mac and Cheese will be quick service. We can deliver right to the curb, if we have to do a shut down again. It's quick, plus we'll use it with the delivery services that are available.
What the Palm Springs franchise could look like when it's finished.
The press release says you plan to open in November. Do you think it will be before Gay Pride weekend (Nov. 5-7) or after?
We are trying to open as quickly as possible. Yes, we are definitely trying to be open on the weekend of Gay Pride. We are hiring a plan expediter to try to speed up the process. We're just waiting for our architectural drawings right now. It will give us a better idea of the exact time. We have already hired our human resource and payroll services. We also have our marketing services, and our publicist.
The release also mentioned later evening hours. What store hours do you plan to have?
We'll open at 10 a.m. every day of the week and close at midnight Sunday to Thursday. Friday and Saturday, we'll close at 2:30 a.m. If we see that there is demand after midnight during the week, we will adapt the hours, but first it will be open until midnight.
The press release mentioned your desire to use the franchise to give back to the community. How will you do this?
We work together with Desert Arc. We are hiring people with disabilities. We are hiring seniors. We're hiring veterans; second chance and we are very inclusive. There're different things that we are planning to be involved, like being a part of the homeless shelters and raising money for them. We also have a program where any organization can set up a fundraiser on our website. They can sign up and determine the day and time. Then they will get a percentage of the proceeds from everybody that comes in during that period of time and mentions the fundraiser. Any nonprofit can sign up for that.
Why is that an important component for you in opening this business?
I just want to treat others like I would like to be treated.