"This is not another burger," says Mauricio Acevedo, CEO of Banna Strows. "It's not another pizza. This is an entirely different product." The Colombian native moved to Miami eleven years ago, and is clearly passionate about his crepes and creperies - which at the moment are two company-owned kiosks (one in the International Mall, the other in Dadeland) that have been around since 2003, and two franchises that opened about a year ago within rest areas of the Florida Turnpike (West Palm Beach and Kendall Creek). Acevedo secured the latter venues via Area USA, "a Spanish company that came into the U.S. and won the concession for the Florida Turnpike." Working with such institutional franchisees is just one reason Mauricio sees big things for Banna Strows. His plan is the coming years is "to have around 125 units -- about 25 units per year." He has all sorts of interesting things to say about why the crepe is a perfect food for franchising, but there was one question I was most anxious to have answered: Where does the name Banna Strows come from?
Turns out I was fruitless in figuring what Banna Strows meant because I was not thinking of fruit. "Banna Strows comes from the words banana and strawberry" explains Mauricio. "One of our most popular crepes, The Fruit Jumble, comes with chocolate, bananas, and strawberries. They're not spelled exactly as is, but that's part of the marketing."
"Not spelled exactly" may be something of an understatement, but Mauricio surely doesn't undersell his product. Banna Strows "started only with sweets" and later introduced savory fillings. "We have a Thai crepe with a sauce that's spicy and also sweet. It's become a real favorite. You can also make your own crepe." Depending on the number of toppings, ticket prices generally range from $5.50 to $8.50.
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"Usually somebody cooks something very well and decides to franchise it out," he says, explaining how Banna Strows was born. "We went at it from the other direction: 'What does a successful food concept need to have in order to be successful?' Food that can adapt to any market, would appeal to all members of the family, can be eaten any time of the day. Something with ease and speed of preparation, that doesn't take more than three minutes to make. It has to have low payroll, be easy to operate, inexpensive to set up. We went down the list and crepes were perfect. The batter gets poured in front of the customer when they order. Everything else is precut and we heat it up as we make it."
Because it doesn't need a kitchen or back office, franchisees can operate their locations out of a kiosk, truck or small storefront for about $115,000 to $190,000 on initial investments (including the franchise fee). Acevedo tells me he has someone "in New York City interested in setting up a Banna Strows in a mobile truck."
When I ask whether there is a leading creperie in the market, Mauricio replies: "Not yet. We are going to be the leader."