Food & Drink

Famous Toastery poised to expand beyond Cary

Stuffed strawberry and cream cheese french toast at Famous Toastery. Other stuffed french toast includes raspberry, blueberry and peanut butter and banana.
Stuffed strawberry and cream cheese french toast at Famous Toastery. Other stuffed french toast includes raspberry, blueberry and peanut butter and banana. CONTRIBUTED BY DEAN KESSEL

Famous Toastery came to Cary’s Waverly Place in 2014, the first of the Charlotte area’s brunch chain to enter the Triangle market.

Then, it was known as Toast Cafe. Despite some brand confusion – a corporate name change shortly after it opened – the Cary location has become one of the highest grossing restaurants in the franchise.

And it’s shown franchisee Dean Kessel that he’s ready to grow. Kessel and his wife, Beth, have plans to expand by nine stores across the state in the next five years.

Their territory will cover Chapel Hill, Durham, North Raleigh, Wake Forest, Greensboro and Asheville, Dean Kessel said. He said he hopes to open two restaurants a year.

Kessel said he doesn’t have a specific site for his first expansion, but said he is close to securing one in the Triangle first.

“We can be opportunistic to find a deal that suits us,” he said.

Famous Toastery has been able to capitalize on the appeal of brunch – that special blend of breakfast and lunch dishes – that should suit everyone’s tastes, no matter the time of day. The restaurant also serves classic brunch drinks, such as bloody Marys and bellinis.

The breakfast menu has traditional items, such as eggs Benedict and omelets but adds decadent stuffed French toast, flavored pancakes (raspberry, peanut butter and banana, for example) and sunrise burritos (egg whites, brie and avocado) with homemade salsa.

Lunch features sandwiches, wraps, salads and burgers.

Both menus are served 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., coinciding with the restaurant’s operating hours.

Famous Toastery lets Kessel return to his restaurant roots, which he explored in college with a Dreamland-To-Go ribs restaurant.

The bulk of his career has been spent in motorsports marketing. He was director of Sprint’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series sponsorship and directed sports marketing for Lowe’s. Kessel said he helped secure naming rights for Charlotte Motor Speedway, which now is known as Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

He also was vice president and general manager for ESPN and B.A.S.S. fishing organization.

He became familiar with the Toast Cafe brand while working in Charlotte; the restaurant launched in 2005 in Huntersville. Kessel was at a Toast Cafe in Davidson with his wife, discussing their future, when he saw a notice on his table recruiting franchisees.

Kessel, 52, and his wife moved to Cary in 2014 to launch the restaurant. Beth handles restaurant administration as well as private events, which include showers, rehearsal dinners and birthday parties.

“It’s a great lifestyle brand,” Kessel said. “We open at 7 and close at 3 every day. It’s not only good for us as an ownership group, it’s good for our staff. Our team can be with their families in the evening.”

Kessel said everything is made from scratch. He said the restaurant follows an “every server is your server” model. If a customer drops a fork, any server can help.

“Everyone has to be responsible for the whole restaurant,” he said. “What that means for the customer is you don’t have to wait for anything.”

Kessel acknowledges the brand confusion he faced when he opened the first restaurant outside of Charlotte. In addition to the name change at the corporate level, there’s a Toast at Five Points in Durham, which focuses on sandwiches. The sign outside the Cary restaurant still bears the former name, he said.

But he said diners come to a restaurant for the food, not the name. And he’s excited to have been part of Waverly Place’s resurgence. Famous Toastery occupies a location that had been dormant for years. The restaurant seats 100 inside with a patio of 50 seats. Kessel said that’s a typical template for future restaurants.

He said the shopping center’s management has done a great job of bringing in new retail and upgrading the facility.

“We’re a premium offering,” Kessel said. “You have to put yourself in the right demographic. Waverly has been great for that.”

Famous Toastery also is scheduled to open a location in Morrisville in a new development at Weston Corners. The restaurant at 9928 Chapel Hill Road is expected to open in March, according to its Facebook page. It is not affiliated with Kessel’s franchise.

Jessica Banov: 919-829-4831, @JessicaBanov

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