La Madeleine French Bakery & Cafe will open to the public Wednesday at Central Texas Marketplace after a weekend of hosting invited guests.
The Dallas-based chain announced in 2016 it was placing a restaurant in Waco, but delays in construction wreaked havoc with several opening dates announced by Waco businessman and attorney Dan McReynolds, a partner in the venture and La Madeleine’s landlord at the marketplace.
The restaurant now belongs to HZ LM Casual Foods, a corporation headquartered in Sugar Land and led by Amin Dhanani, a partner in The Dhanani Group, a franchising powerhouse that owns and operates about 500 Burger King restaurants and more than 200 Popeye’s locations nationally, according to a company profile in Franchising Today magazine.
Sarah Greenberg, director of sales for Waco’s La Madeleine location, said HZ LM owns 36 La Madeleine locations, including those in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Tyler, Oklahoma, and in Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana.
Jeremy Pardue, from Houston, will serve as general manager of local operations, Greenberg said. He previously managed a La Madeleine heavily damaged by Hurricane Harvey.
The almost 5,000-square-foot Waco restaurant anchors a retail-and-dining strip in Central Texas Marketplace at State Highway 6, Interstate 35 and Bagby Avenue.
The new La Madeleine restaurant has been much anticipated. Bobby Horner, a city of Waco inspection supervisor, is an unabashed fan of other restaurants in the chain. He has closely followed construction progress, and occasionally the lack thereof, and said he is glad to hear the doors are about to open.
Carla Pendergraft, who markets the Waco Convention Center, said La Madeleine’s arrival marks the continued evolution of local dining options.
“Those placing restaurants here are beginning to realize Waco has a diverse population, and there is demand for a diverse cuisine,” Pendergraft said. “Our mix of restaurants is changing, reflecting more sophisticated fare.”
She said she also goes to La Madeleine locations when she is in Dallas or Austin.
“I posted news of the opening on our Facebook page, and the response has been unbelievable,” Pendergraft said. “There is so much excitement out there. We received so many likes and comments. People are saying, ‘See you there,’ and, ‘Finally, this place is going to open.’ It should be fun.”
Kris Collins, an industry recruiter at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, said La Madeleine is an asset worth trumpeting on her visits.
“The introduction of new businesses, like La Madeleine, are exciting for our region and definitely help us in showcasing Greater Waco’s growth and economic success,” she said in an email. “We have an expanding food presence in the area from locally grown cuisine to new nationally recognized brands, all of which are adding to the offerings available in the area.”
Directly across West Loop 340 from Central Texas Marketplace, in Legends Crossing, three new restaurants have opened in recent months: P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Walk On’s Bistreaux & Bar and Los Cucos Mexican Cafe.
Hopdoddy, an Austin-based burger chain, has also announced plans to build there.
The Southwest division of Retail Properties of America controls 526,000 square feet in Central Texas Marketplace.
The company is happy to have La Madeleine as a neighbor, and the occupancy rate for its Central Texas Marketplace properties is at its highest in 10 years with the arrival of Big Frog Custom T-Shirts and Apricot Lane, spokesman Jason Kasal said via email.
“And we expect to announce two other tenants shortly,” Kasal wrote.
Abby Trout, who manages the Massage Envy franchise at the marketplace, said La Madeleine’s decision to open in early December is on the money.
“The whole shopping center gets busy this time of year, so the timing is right. And this is the beginning of soup season,” Trout said.
Trout, grew up in Dallas and said she loves the grilled chicken Caesar salad sandwiches at La Madeleine.
“The community has been waiting patiently, and we can’t wait to share the joie of the French countryside with them,” La Madeleine Vice President Joe Pate wrote in a press release.
At 4,800 square feet, Waco’s cafe is larger than most, Greenberg said. It employs 50 and will open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The first 100 guests in line at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday will get free bread for a year, according to the press release.