On a corner. That’s where it started.
Evolving over the years from one true bakery to a collection of destinations for people in
Corner Bakery Cafe has gone through quite an evolution since our inception in November 1991. The bakery was founded by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE) to complement the first Maggiano’s Little Italy, on the corner of Clark and Grand in downtown Chicago. We provided bread for Maggiano’s and quickly found an audience that wanted to buy whole loaves over the counter, and a few who wanted sandwiches made on the bread. We listened to our guests and slowly built a menu from there – homemade sandwiches, soups, panini, desserts, and more! By 1995 we had expanded to five locations in Chicago.
In September of that year, Brinker International purchased Corner Bakery from LEYE. In 1996, our rapid growth started as we expanded beyond downtown Chicago onto corners in cities and suburbs in Washington D.C., Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles. Today we have over 140 bakery cafes across the country. In 2005, Brinker International realized the need to let the brand grow. An investment partner was sought that could complement the brand, provide the capital investment for growth and seek unique opportunities in franchising and product development. In 2006, Corner Bakery Cafe found that partner in Il Fornaio, who agreed to buy the assets of Corner Bakery Cafe in partnership with equity investment firm Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co. LLC of New York. Then in 2011, Roark Capital Group, an Atlanta-based private equity firm that specializes in business and consumer service companies with attractive growth prospects, acquired Il Fornaio (America) Corporation, owner of Corner Bakery Cafe. The leadership team at Corner Bakery Cafe, joined by executives of Roark Capital Group, provides strategic and operational support to ensure Corner Bakery Cafe has the systems in place to grow successfully.
Sharing Our Love of Great Food
The original menu on Corner Bakery’s opening day featured only freshly baked breads, great coffee and espresso. As our guests requested more items, and as we responded, our menu evolved to include handmade sandwiches, seasonal soups, crisp salads and freshly baked sweets. And as the brand grew and we began to incorporate local flavors from different parts of the country, we became Corner Bakery Cafe, adding “Cafe” to our name to reflect the growing importance of our food and not just our baked goods. At Corner Bakery Cafe, we are passionate about food and we know that our guests are as well. We also know that everyone has their own nutritional wants and needs, so our entire team is dedicated to creating fresh, tasty, made-to-order options that easily fit within almost any lifestyle. We also make it easier to eat well by bringing in more than 40 different types of fresh produce each and every day and working our ovens all day to provide our guests with just-baked goodness.
Style of Service
Since Corner Bakery Cafe was founded in the quick paced, urban atmosphere of downtown Chicago, the service style was designed to be fast and efficient with down the line ordering and guests walking their food to their tables. However, as we moved into suburban markets, we realized that we could provide our guests with the same quick service they needed but in a way that would allow them to relax a little – table service. This style of service is unique to the fast casual segment, where guests order from a menu board and we bring the food to the table.
Building the Brand
In 2004, we conducted in-depth research to gain a deeper understanding of who we are to our guests and why they use us. We wanted to ensure that we are always keeping our guests’ needs and desires at the front of all our business decisions. This research helped us develop our neighborhood focus, a new logo (but without letting go of our loveable and recognizable Baker Boy) and a new look and feel to our cafes. In September of 2005, our newest prototype opened in Laguna Niguel, California. The opening was a tremendous success with record sales, increased guest satisfaction and guest counts, and unsurpassed quality. We began aggressively franchising in 2006 and have continued to grow and evolve the brand through strong franchise relationships. We believe Corner Bakery Cafe's success is driven by our commitment to partnering with respected leaders in the restaurant industry who bring value and insights to the brand.