People are finally eating out again, so much so that many Valley restaurateurs are expanding. Whether it’s taking the national franchising route or just adding a location or two, restaurant owners know there is money on the table. Sweet Arleen’s is getting ready to take a bite out of the bakery sector as it preps for three new locations this summer. After announcing plans to expand from its Westlake Village store in late 2012, the bakery is finally opening in Yorba Linda, Draper, Utah and Plano, Texas by the end of summer as it prepares for a national rollout. The bakery, well-known for winning the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” three times, has sold eight units in the last nine to 10 months, President Arleen Scavone told the Business Journal. And there’s still room in the San Fernando Valley for about five to six more locations. Scavone, 55, foresees franchisees will open about 100 units in 20 strategic “foodie markets” like Las Vegas, Northern California and Chicago over the next five years. She attributes her brand recognition to her appearances on the Food Network and said it has helped to promote the bakery on a national level. Sweet Arleen’s also has a food truck that travels to Los Angeles County, including the San Fernando Valley, as well as Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Scavone said the truck accounts for about 20 to 25 percent of her revenue, so she intends for the franchises to eventually support food trucks as well. Edward Kushell, who founded Franchise Consulting Group in Los Angeles 35 years ago, said it is wise for any franchisee to start relatively small and open multiple locations in a somewhat close region to establish proof of concept. “You’ve got to sell the hype,” he said. According to the Sweet Arleen’s website, upfront investments could cost entrepreneurs anywhere from $270,600 to $439,000. Kushell said that while the bakery has established a name for itself since appearing on cable television, interested franchisees should still perform due diligence. “A lot of people express interest in franchising because they’re in love with the product, but that doesn’t by itself make them the kind of franchisee you want,” he said. “Franchisors have to develop a profile of what they want their ideal candidate to be, someone who has a certain amount of retail experience.” Sweet Arleen’s second location in Yorba Linda in July will be managed by Scavone’s former pastry chef Toren Halseth and his wife Amanda. Scavone said the other franchisees are “entrepreneurs with drive and passion,” and 99 percent of prospective operators are familiar with the brand because they heard of it on television and learned more about it online. Copying Cat Public School 818 is the next incarnation of the gastropub concept in the Valley. The restaurant chain’s parent company in Woodland Hills, Grill Concepts Inc., announced it is opening a location in Sherman Oaks in November as part of its expansion plan for a total of eight stores by the end of next year. Chief Executive Bob Spivak said he plans to open another location somewhere in Los Angeles, but there are no immediate plans for another Valley location once Sherman Oaks opens its doors. The concept was launched by the company about two years ago and has outlets, each identified by their phone area code, in Thousand Oaks (Public School 805), Culver City (310) and downtown Los Angeles (612). Grill Concepts operates seven fine dining Grill on the Alley restaurants and 19 Daily Grill casual dining chain stores. Spivak explained that Public School’s strategy for expansion will closely follow the cities where its existing brands are successful. Those markets include Chicago, Dallas, the San Francisco Bay area, Seattle or Washington, D.C. Grill Concepts just appointed a new vice president of marketing, Tammy Billings, to oversee and manage the chain’s growth as it grows the Public School brand nationally. While Billings brings experience with retail franchising, Spivak said his company has no plans to franchise in the future. “We don’t believe anyone can operate our brand as well as we can,” he said. Going East Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill Inc. is another chain branching out of Southern California, as it prepares for its first East Coast opening in November in Springfield, Va. The Westlake Village-based restaurant chain will bring its total restaurant count to 16 when it also opens another location in San Diego this fall. The decision to expand to the Washington, D.C. area is because that is where Wood Ranch Co-Founder Eric Anders is originally from. He said the company has looked for years for opportunities outside of Southern California, and the team became more focused on the D.C. region about two and a half years ago. “I know it’s a dynamic restaurant market,” Anders said. “I was familiar with that area, and there are a lot of other companies going in there. We feel pretty good about the mix.” Staff Reporter Stephanie Forshee can be reached at (818) 316-3121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.