Juliette Brun bio:
Juliette Brun, creator and CEO of the Juliette & Chocolat chain of restaurants, is a passionate chocolatière and accomplished businesswoman with a serious sweet tooth. French but born in Brazil, Juliette has lived all over the world before settling in Montreal, Quebec where she launched Juliette & Chocolat, a restaurant focused on chocolate and desserts (the first of its kind in Canada).
Grounded in Juliette’s training in France as a pastry chef and chocolatier, Juliette & Chocolat is a warm and welcoming place devoted to the sweet life. Juliette’s obsession with providing a unique and high-quality offering also led her to open her Chocolate Lab to craft and supply unique treats to her restaurants. The Lab is the central kitchen where Juliette and her pastry team test and develop all the new pastries, chocolates and menu items, and where all the treats sold in the restaurants are made.
Juliette is an untiring multitasker: in addition to still being hands-on in leading Juliette & Chocolat and creating the chain’s trend-setting products and desserts, she hosts TV cooking shows, and is the mom of five young kids who enjoy living the chocolate life with her.
Juliette Brun CEO interview:
BeTheBoss.ca: What’s the story behind Juliette & Chocolat?
Juliette Brun: As far back as I can remember, I always had a sweet tooth, and I thought chocolate especially was magical! I always loved cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, and I was always drawn to desserts especially. I lived all over the world; Brazil, France, the US, even Syria, and everywhere I went I discovered the local culinary traditions and flavors. Even though I didn’t know it yet, these experiences would later inform the menu at Juliette & Chocolat.
When I came to Montreal for college, I studied finance and economics at McGill but I kept coming back to my passion for food and desserts. So after finishing my diploma, I decided to go for it and open the restaurant of my dreams. It would be a French-inspired concept, with a lunch offering of salads and savory crepes, but really with a focus on desserts: I wanted pastries, fondues, crepes, waffles, and decadent milkshakes and hot chocolates!
So in 2003, when I was 22, I opened Juliette & Chocolat, the first chocolate bar in Quebec. On the menu, I put the desserts I loved; making sure to include dishes that showcased chocolate. I wanted my guests to travel through the origins and flavors of different chocolates from all around the world.
Since those first steps it’s now been fifteen years, Juliette & Chocolat has grown a lot, and so have I. I’m incredibly grateful to my team: my managers, pastry chefs and red hats (we all wear red hats at Juliette & Chocolat) are incredibly passionate, hardworking and creative! Our mission is still the same: indulge in life through a unique chocolate experience!
BeTheBoss.ca: What made you decide to create this franchise?
Juliette Brun: We’ve known for a long time we wanted to franchise, and it’s a project we took very seriously. We wanted to be sure we could offer our franchisees the adequate support. After years of steady growth since we opened our first location on St-Denis St. in 2003, we now have 8 corporate units (more on the way), and the Chocolate Lab, which is capable of handling rapid growth. We invested a lot in our systems, our training material, and our team; and the strong corporate core we have makes us confident that we are ready to franchise.
BeTheBoss.ca: What was your background prior to forming the company?
Juliette Brun: I chose Montreal to study Finance and Economics at McGill University with the idea to eventually have my own business. I didn’t necessarily know beforehand that it would be in the food space. After obtaining my degree, and after a lot of brainstorming, I developed the Juliette & Chocolat concept. At that point I realized I was lacking some technical food-related knowledge, so I went back to France for a year to study chocolate and crepe-making and work in a creperie.
After this intense year in France and a sharp learning curve, during which I also kept testing product ideas, I returned to Montreal and opened the first Juliette & Chocolat. The first year was tough, but I jumped right in and I loved it; embracing the crazy hours, the ups and downs and always putting so much care into the products and customer service that my guests fell in love with the concept and made it a word-of-mouth success!
BeTheBoss.ca: Can you tell us a about the Market?
Juliette Brun: Fifteen years ago the chocolate bistro concept did not exist, and the chocolate supplier market was barely starting to open up and diversify in Quebec. The first Juliette & Chocolat took advantage of this wind of change chocolate, and I would even say that it helped create a chocolate craze. What I took from my experience in Paris was an appreciation for high-end products, and that’s what I brought to Juliette & Chocolat and made it a success.
Today the market is much broader and deeper, and is still growing. Juliette & Chocolat is still the leader in terms of creativity and quality of products, which are the areas of the business where I put most of my efforts today. We continue to deliver to our guests an all-around outstanding chocolate experience, anchored in our passion for living the sweet life.
BeTheBoss.ca: Could you describe your corporate culture?
Juliette Brun: There are many things I am very proud of at Juliette & Chocolat, but one of our principal accomplishments is the team we’ve attracted and grown with us over the years. I am insanely proud of the creativity, work ethic and passion I see in the team every day.
Our organization revolves around 4 core fundamentals: the excellence of our guest service, the flawless quality of our products, the well-being of our Red Hats (that’s how we call our team-members, because our uniform includes a red hat) and the financial health of the company. I am genuinely convinced that if you are able to provide the first three with sincerity and passion, the later will automatically ensue from it.
Our values include the love of good food and creativity, for obvious reasons, but also teamwork and of course passion! It’s all about passion!!
BeTheBoss.ca: Who or what has been your greatest inspiration?
Juliette Brun: I could give you an easy answer by listing famous entrepreneurs, great leaders or corporate success-stories, but this is not what comes first to my mind. I am fortunate to work with my husband Lionel, who shares my vision and my aspirations for Juliette & Chocolat. We started this amazing adventure together, and I truly believe that since the very beginning we inspire each other to go beyond what we think we can do, to build the best company possible, while having fun doing it. He pushes me to get things done and sometimes refrains me from my (too) crazy ideas!
I’d also add that I have a sweet tooth and passion for food that is childlike, and this I think is important, to find fun in the daily work and find renewed inspiration.
BeTheBoss.ca: What are the advantages in being a Juliette & Chocolat franchisee?
Juliette Brun: The new franchisee will benefit from access to an attractive and proven business model, and will gain access to all the tools, systems and products that have made our success possible: the Juliette & Chocolat operations manual, the training manual, access to all proprietary management tools and processes, and access to all our unique products and sweet treats made in our Chocolate Lab.
Before, during, and after the restaurant launch, the Juliette & Chocolat support team will be on hand to assist the franchisee with:
- real estate and location selection (we are partnered with an international Real Estate Consultant firm)
- lease negotiation
- design and engineering plans
- hiring and training
- marketing activities
The franchisee benefits from:
- corporate expertise
- a centralized distribution system and unique, exclusive and proprietary products
- a Research and Development Department, new menus twice per year and new product launches several times per year
- a national marketing program
- training and human resource programs
- the support of a corporate team and a regional manager
BeTheBoss.ca: What differentiates Juliette & Chocolat from its competitors.
Juliette Brun: Juliette & Chocolat is a turn-key operation, as we have a central kitchen (the Chocolate Lab) where we make all our sweet treats and continually develop new ideas. Juliette & Chocolat is able to keep innovating and supply the restaurant units with unique and exclusive products not available anywhere else (including gluten-free and artisanal treats), that make our restaurants destinations for our guests.
Additionally, and unlike many brands that rush to franchise, Juliette & Chocolat has a strong operational core of 8 restaurants (with more coming) in the greater Montreal area. This insures an operational expertise and a strong operations team at the service of the restaurant units to ensure their success. We have a team of industry professionals providing guidance and support for restaurant operations, human resources, finances and we also have an in-house marketing, graphic and branding team focused on making the brand shine.
And finally, not to toot my own horn, but I am completely invested in Juliette & Chocolat and focused on improving and growing the company. I enjoy the public relations work and Juliette & Chocolat benefits from my TV and magazine appearances. On the operations side I am incredibly grateful to have a closely-knit team as focused as me that provides invaluable contributions to the brand.
BeTheBoss.ca: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
Juliette Brun: Do not underestimate the amount of work required to make your franchise a success!
Find a culture fit with a brand because once we once you sign with a brand, you need to follow their guidelines. You might not always agree with the corporate decision, but you need to agree with the owners’ vision, and love the concept.
Do the due diligence work: any business involves a certain amount of risk. It is your responsibility to develop your business plan using the advice of qualified professionals (lawyers, accountants, consultants).
Be ready to grow all the time, challenge yourself and have an always-keep-learning mentality. If you have a passion for food the work is incredibly rewarding and you will be surprised by how much you can bring to others and how much you will grow in the process.
BeTheBoss.ca: In your opinion, why do you think that Juliette & Chocolat would be a great opportunity for someone?
Juliette Brun: Juliette & Chocolat is a proven business model, and a strong brand with a reputation for delicious products and a focus on quality. We are a company with strong family values and a sense of business, and a seriously focused work ethic!
We would never sign a franchisee if we do not feel there is a fit with us, our brand, our vision and our team, and we take as much care assisting our franchisees as we do our corporate stores. As owners we are very operational and we love it, and we are completely involved in our brand and with our team. We are looking for franchisees who can make our concept shine and treat it with the same care with put in it!
To learn more about this new franchise opportunity available at