Houston’s Pinot’s Palette rolls out national franchise expansion

Houston’s Pinot’s Palette rolls out national franchise expansion

Pinot’s Palette, a Houston-based “paint and sip” franchise, is growing nationally.

The concept of giving people the chance to sip wine while learning to paint has so far been a success in the Houston area if 2011 revenue is any indication. Founded in 2009 in Houston, Pinot’s Palette started out with two locations that were corporate-owned before the company began offering opportunities to franchisees.

The corporate locations — in the Galleria and Montrose areas — saw about $594,000 and $358,000 in revenue, respectively, in 2011.

The success of those locations prompted owners and co-founders Craig Ceccanti and Charles Willis to franchise the business, and Pinot’s Palette’s first franchised studio opened in 2010 in Katy. That location posted revenue of about $240,000 in 2011.

A Sugar Land franchise opened in September, and, in October, one is set to open in The Woodlands, with a third corporate studio planned in the Memorial City Mall area.Meanwhile, the brand is growing outside the city as well.

Eight more franchised studios are set to open in Atlanta; Tyler; San Antonio; Chicago; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Fort Collins, Colo.; Louisville, Ky.; and Lafayette, La., by year’s end. And, Pinot’s Palette recently signed agreements with five new franchisees to develop studios in Kansas City; St. Louis; Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Allen.

Ceccanti, CEO of Pinot’s Palette, estimates a franchisee’s initial investment at around $100,000 including the $25,000 franchise fee and not including leasing, marketing and employee expenses. In some markets, where there are not bring-your-own-beverage laws, for example, costs might be greater because the operator would be required to open up a beer/wine bar in the studio.

Wine or art experience is not required to apply to be a franchisee, Ceccanti said.

“Community involvement and someone who is a good fit with our culture are more important,” he added, combined of course with solid financial qualifications. “They need to bring energy and passion to the concept and have local area knowledge.

“We’re able to teach them everything they need to know,” Ceccanti said.

In the Houston suburbs, there have been some similarities among franchisees — they’re all husband and wife teams with families. Elsewhere, Ceccanti said newlyweds or young urban professionals are more typical franchisees.

Ceccanti, Willis and his wife, Beth, came up with the idea because they loved “fun night out” concepts and felt that something was missing in a city that was home to a “tremendous amount of culture and arts.”

Among the typical Pinot’s Palette patrons are groups of women who take a class for “a girls’ night out,” according to Ceccanti.

“I would argue that it’s one of the best date nights in the city as well as a great place for private parties,” he added.

The company-owned locations also do a lot of corporate parties and the owners hope to extend the capability to do offsite parties to franchisees as well.

Locations with no private party room average about 1,500 square feet. With a party room, the space averages 2,000 to 2,500 square feet.

As for return on investment, it’s a bit early to tell, said Ceccanti, who believes the business model is designed “to allow Pinot owners to return their investment rather quickly.”

“We expect for them to be operationally breaking even within the first six months,” he said.

And Ceccanti has found a way to make his software development background come in handy. He helped design a proprietary reservation system that allows customers to book online.

“It saves owners about 20 hours a week in manual work and allows us to get out and market to our customers more,” Ceccanti said.

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