INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's first 'I Heart Mac & Cheese' location opens in Westfield on Wednesday.
Local first responders, Matthew and Elizabeth Griffin, are the franchise owners of Westfield's I Heart Mac & Cheese.
"We had always wanted to own a restaurant in Indiana, and once we flew to Florida in July 2019 to experience I Heart Mac & Cheese, our decision was made instantly to move forward," Matthew said.
The build-your-own macaroni and cheese franchise can be found in several other states, including Florida, New York and Illinois. The menu boasts not only custom mac and cheeses but a lobster and white truffle mac and baked chicken parmesan.
Although the menu was an essential part of the decision for the Griffin's to open a location in central Indiana, what indeed sold them was the reputation the preceded the franchise. The brand has received several ranking from Entrepreneur Magazine and QSR Magainze's 40/40 list.
About two weeks before the coronavirus shutdowns began across the state and nation, the couple started the building process of their new business. Matthew says they have no reservation at all for starting a restaurant at this stage in Indiana phased reopening.
"We are excited more than ever to start this new chapter in our lives, launching I Heart Mac & Cheese into Indiana," Matthew said. "We live in Indiana and our family is in Indiana. Indiana is home, and what better place to start a new business."
I Heart Mac & Cheese will be adhering to the COVID-19 guidelines set in place by the Indiana Restaurant & Lodging Association as well as health officials. If guests choose to dine in, the tables will be spaced out six feet apart, and there will be markers on the floor indicating where to stand.
Despite the pandemic, the Griffin's are also in the process of locating two more I Heart Mac and Cheese properties in Indiana. Those details have yet to be finalized at the time of this posting.
The Griffin's will be hiring anywhere from 20 to 25 people for employment at its first location in Westfield.
I Heart Mac & Cheese
637 E State Highway 32
Monday - Thursday : 11AM - 10PM
Friday and Saturday : 11AM - 11PM
Sunday : 11AM - 10PM
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Matt Griffin, Co-Owner of the Westfield location, says The best of both worlds is still a hot seller and the lobster mac is very good.
Patience is one thing Griffin says he's learned during the pandemic.
"For instance the location in Indy," Griffin said. "We’ve been in the space for 3-4 months, but we’re not gonna open till after the holidays. It’s new – I want to get it open and get it going! But we’ve gotta be smart about it at the same time. We don’t want to lose momentum opening up around Thanksgiving or Christmas. So we’re gonna hit the brakes and open when we should in early January."
How much everything slowed down is one thing Griffin says surprised him during the pandemic.
"We know we have a good product. Everyone seems to really enjoy it," Griffin said. "But, it has slowed down. Just the whole virus thing. You know, in the beginning we as a country didn't know what it truly was and what have you. How quickly, how it spreads. Now we do. Now we have hopefully a vaccine, several, a couple that could help the country open. And the restaurant industry – I saw a report, 1 in 6 have closed! That’s alarming. We are so, so blessed to still be open. And that we’re not in that category."
"And we have a great community, whether it be the band that will have the fundraiser. Guerin Catholic High School. The soccer team. A couple elementary schools – Oak Trace Elementary. They come and do their fundraising to where it brings in the parents and siblings of the student and staff, but it also helps boost sales during that time as well and 10% of proceeds go back to boost that organization. It’s a win-win for us, it’s a win-win for them. Being a part of a community like that, I mean… Who could go wrong?"
The transition to carryout only wasn't a big challenge because their product carries and reheats well.
"It’s tough to expand no matter what’s going on but it’s definitely more challenging now with the employment, the area we chose in Indianapolis: It’s near IUPUI, literally across the street," Griffin said. "If the school closes or does online learning, how’s that going to affect sales? Luckily we are on the ground floor of an apartment community so that’s going to help. Those students will still be living there but maybe not traveling across the street to school, so that’s going to help."
Griffin is planning to open two more locations: West 10th Street on Jan. 11, North Michigan Road sometime in March or April. They are also looking at opening locations in Noblesville and Whitestown.
WRTV asked Griffin what he would like to say to his customers and want them to know.
Thank you! Thank you for coming in to have a meal at our restaurant," Griffin said. "Thank you for supporting small business! We’re all in it together. We’re just appreciative customers are coming in our doors, into our space."