Who owns Crumbl Cookies? The strategies behind the company’s rapid growth

Crumbl Cookies

According to the Technomic Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report, Crumbl Cookies was the fourth-fastest growing restaurant chain in the United States in 2021. It’s an impressive feat for a company that launched in 2017. James McGowan, Crumbl’s CEO, told Franchise Times in 2017:

“It’s been a blur the last four years. That first location was month-to-month rent. It became so successful that we added Oren in January 2018.”

Crumbl offers its iconic chocolate chip cookie as a permanent item on the menu alongside a rotating menu that changes weekly. Therefore, you are guaranteed a new sugary delight every time you open the store’s distinctive pink box. 

Key Takeaways

  • Crumbl’s CEO Jason McGowan and COO Sawyer Hemsley had no experience in the baking industry when they founded Crumbl. 
  • Franchising has helped Crumbl expand to over 370 locations in 40+ states – and the company wants to expand globally soon. 
  • Franchisees are delighted with the family-owned company, as they pocket an estimated $350,000 per store annually. 

Crumbl’s CEO Jason McGowan and COO Sawyer Hemsley spent thousands of dollars perfecting the Crumbl recipe

Crumbl’s story starts with two ambitious cousins – James McGowan and Sawyer Hemsley – and their insatiable desire to create the perfect chocolate chip cookie. The pair had no baking experience, so they envisioned a rough road ahead. 

McGowan and Hemsley altered the recipe by changing one ingredient and asking people to review the new cookie. They used that formula until they landed on a recipe that received near-universal approval. Hemsley told ABC News:

“We took the same recipe, switched out one ingredient, and then asked random passersby which cookie was better. After days of experimenting, thousands of dollars spent on dough, and hours and hours of baking, we finally came to what we believe is the world’s best chocolate chip cookie.”

Sawyer Hemsley and Jason McGowan
COO Sawyer Hemsley (left) and CEO Jason McGowan (right) pose with Crumbl’s iconic pink boxes at the company’s headquarters in Orem, Utah | Photo by Levi Sim/Utah State Magazine

The cousins say they created some ‘recipes that did not live up to their expectations, and cookies that are just plain embarrassing to them today,’ but it was worth it in the end. 

Before opening their first store, Hemsley and McGowan had to formulate a name for their brand. McGowan talked to The Silicon Review about the meaning behind Crumbl: “only the best cookies are soft and ‘Crumbly’ – Crumbl’s name and offering go together perfectly!”

Crumbl opened its first location in Logan, Utah, in 2017. Hemsley was studying at Utah State University when the store opened. The company initially offered takeout and delivery services, and as the store’s popularity grew, Crumbl rolled out curbside pick-up, catering, and nationwide shipping. 

Crumbl Cookies was incorporated in 2017 and has its headquarters in Orem, Utah. 

Technology and social media have played a crucial role in the company’s success

Crumbl’s embrace of technology spurred its rapid growth. “Crumbl is a tech-driven bakery,” McGowan told The Silicon Review

The company’s website and app allow customers to view and order Crumbl’s rapidly evolving offerings. Bakers can access cookie data and recipes from iPads provided by corporate. McGowan continued:

“Digital menus and ordering kiosks are controlled by corporate to ensure that needed company wide content updates are instantaneous and cost-effective for franchise partners. Corporate’s internal dashboard keeps data top-of-mind given that individual cookie costs, sourcing info, waste metrics, and more are all accessed in one centralized space.”

Crumbl’s research and development team works tirelessly to create new recipes they send to franchises. Customers expect innovation from Crumbl, challenging the company to work tirelessly to satisfy that demand. 

Before serving customers, franchisees must perfect their role in the cookie’s creation. Technology ensures that the process from R&D to providing a satisfactory product to the customer happens seamlessly. 

Social media has helped market Crumbl as a modern and customer-friendly entity, contributing to its popularity among younger generations. McGowan said the company strived to make itself an ‘Instagram-able brand.’

“Since the beginning, social media quickly became the heart of our company,” McGowan told ABC News. “It’s where we announce our weekly flavors and communicate with our fans on an individual yet expansive scale.”

Crumbl has millions of followers on social media but doesn’t limit its marketing to social media sites. McGowan explained:

“In addition to Crumbl’s organic social strategy, the brand actively engages in SEO/ SEM tactics, PR strategies, content marketing, influencer outreach, and more at both the local and national levels.”

Flexible franchising agreements have helped Crumbl grow across the country

Every Crumbl franchisee must follow the original store’s open-kitchen layout: customers must have unobstructed views of the cookie-making process. Sawyer Hemsley told Yahoo Finance:

“Having our customers see every cookie being made is one of the best experiences of our stores. Each ingredient is carefully chosen to provide customers with the highest quality cookie on the market.”

Crumbl charges a $25,000 franchising fee and expects franchisees to pay an 8% royalty fee. The franchise agreements have favorable terms for both parties, with one of the franchisees telling Franchise Times: “On the financial side, we’re very happy.”

The company’s domination of the cookie market dissuades people from opening cookie stores that aren’t Crumbl. According to the Bucks County Courier Times, Eliza Daniel wanted to open a bakery, but after conducting research, she concluded that a Crumbl store opening near her prospective bakery would put her out of business. 

Denise Daniel newest Crumbl Cookies
Denise Daniel shows that her family’s newest Crumbl Cookies franchise has opened at the Village at Newtown in Newtown Township. | Peg Quann/The Bucks County Courier Times

Therefore, Eliza and her family decided to join Crumbl by becoming a franchisee. In March 2022, the Daniels family opened their second Crumble store in Warrington, Pennsylvania. The Daniels family and other franchisees average $1.7 million and generate net profits of more than $350,000 by predominantly selling cookies. 

Celebrities like Philadelphia 76ers player Tobias Harris have associated themselves with Crumbl franchises. Tobias told 6ABC that he wanted in as soon as he heard a store was opening in Wynnewood, Philadelphia. 

Luckily for him, the store’s owner, Charles Terry, is a long-time friend. Tobias told the outlet that he enjoyed his experience at Crumbl:

“A lot of fun, being an ambassador. I get to come in, try to learn how to make some cookies, which has been a work in progress. But at the same time here with a young core of employees, and to see the teamwork and the minds and happiness that comes with working here has been a phenomenal thing for me.”

Crumbl monitors its stores closely to ensure they maintain the company’s high standards. “As an additional layer of assurance, corporate’s establishment of a quality team ensures that cookie, brand, and operational quality are measured every few days via internal ‘pass-offs,’ customer reviews, and in-store feedback,” McGowan said. 

The owners aim to make Crumbl a global brand

With over 370 locations in 40+ states and a library of over 200 different cookies, Crumbl aims to expand beyond the United States. The Silicon Review asked McGowan what the next step for Crumbl is, and he said: “The # pinkbox’s global expansion, of course!”

McGowan promised that expansion wouldn’t affect innovation as the company has many new product offerings in the pipeline. He said:

“Without giving too many trade secrets away, know that features customers have been screaming for (in addition to those they haven’t thought of yet) are already in motion.”