On opening day in 1991, at the corner of Clark and Grand in downtown Chicago, the Corner Bakery menu featured freshly baked breads, great coffee and espresso. In addition to serving its own loyal guests, Corner Bakery also baked bread for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ Maggiano’s Little Italy. Traffic picked up and guests began to ask for sandwiches made with that fabulous bread, followed by homemade soups and salads.
With new menu options, demand for the innovative dishes grew, and by 1995 Corner Bakery had expanded to five locations in Chicago.
In September of 1995, Brinker International purchased Corner Bakery, and the brand’s rapid growth began. In 1996, Corner Bakery expanded beyond downtown Chicago and into cities across the country, ultimately opening up the first freestanding Corner Bakery in Plano, Texas, in 1997.
As guests continued to request more items, the Corner Bakery menu expanded to feature local favorites and a larger variety of flavorful sandwiches, hand-tossed salads and desserts made from scratch. The menu further evolved to incorporate new specialty items such as hot breakfasts, including oatmeal and made-to-order egg dishes, as well as lunch and dinner entrees like its famous grilled panini and pasta. With a menu featuring savory items far beyond typical bakery fare, in 1999 the brand officially added “Cafe” to its name, emphasizing its extended menu offerings in addition to baked goods.
With a new larger menu in place, the culinary team began focusing on flavors that reflected the seasons. Currently, Corner Bakery Cafe features several menu items throughout each year that highlight seasonal fresh products. Each menu item is made-to-order, so every guest can feed their cravings in a way that fits their lifestyle.
In addition to creating an enhanced experience for guests visiting Corner Bakery Cafe, the breadth and quality of the restaurant’s menu is recognized through its highly successful catering program. With more than 20 percent of the brand’s sales attributed to catering, Corner Bakery is the industry segment leader. In 2005, as the bakery-cafe category began growing at an unprecedented rate, Brinker realized the need to let Corner Bakery Cafe expand and mature at a faster pace. The company sought an investment partner that could complement the brand, provide the capital investment for growth and pursue opportunities in franchising and product development. The brand found a fit with Il Fornaio, which purchased the assets of Corner Bakery Cafe in partnership with equity investment firm Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co., LLC of New York.
With new ownership in place, the executive team began focusing on an aggressive growth strategy designed to help the brand grow successfully while maintaining the integrity of the original brand standards and ideals. In early 2007, Corner Bakery Cafe welcomed its first franchisee, The Rose Group, as part of the brand’s newly developed franchise program.
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 and Il Fornaio Restaurants. Roark's strong background and extensive resources within the franchise and restaurant industries strengthens Corner Bakery Cafe’s ability to better serve its existing franchisees, while accelerating the pursuit of new franchises. Corner Bakery Cafe currently has 31 franchisees with more than 255 franchise development commitments coast-to-coast.
Today, we continue to fulfill the needs and desires of our neighbors with a menu of ingredient‐inspired, prepared‐to‐order food. The traditions we established years ago are those we still passionately follow today, with real kitchens in place of assembly lines; over 40 types of fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables; a real panini grill; and ovens that work all day long to deliver freshly baked breads and desserts.
And, with a mission to “Feed the Day,” Corner Bakery Cafe continues to develop strategic growth plans and seek out successful franchisees. As Corner Bakery Cafe’s network of franchises continues to expand, the team is working to bring the premier bakery-cafe experience into more neighborhoods across the country.
Corner Bakery Cafe is a fast-casual restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to guests in 25 states and Washington, D.C. Established in 1991, Corner Bakery Cafe restaurants are owned and operated by CBC Restaurant Corp., with nearly 200 company-owned and franchised locations around the country. Founded on a philosophy of creating a place for people to relax and gather with family and friends, Corner Bakery Cafe offers a casual atmosphere featuring innovative, seasonal menu options ranging from hot breakfasts and signature panini to handcrafted salads, sandwiches and mouthwatering sweets. Offering dine-in, to-go and catering service for any occasion, Corner Bakery Cafe delivers a premier bakery-cafe experience in the heart of neighborhoods everywhere. Corner Bakery Cafe was acquired in 2011 by Roark Capital Group, an Atlanta-based private equity firm that specializes in business and consumer service companies with attractive growth prospects and revenues ranging from $20 million to $1.0 billion.