Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill

Golden Krust Stonecrest

Golden Krust wants to bring its Jamaican cuisine to the entire world.

By Tim O’Connor

The strength behind Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill is found in beef and chicken patties. Those five ounces of authentic Jamaican flavor have brought the company from a small New York restaurant and food manufacturer into a soon-to-be international franchise brand.

“That little patty, and the millions we have sold to date, has changed so many lives,” Executive Vice President of Franchising Daren Hawthorne says. “That small, little golden patty is quite powerful.”

Family Feel

Entrepreneurism and family have been the two pillars of Golden Krust since the beginning.  The company’s roots are found in St. Andrew, Jamaica, where Ephraim and Mavis Hawthorne operated Hawthorne & Son’s Bakery. Their son, Lowell, worked as a deejay and a mini bus owner-operator before eventually migrating to New York, where his own entrepreneurial drive lead to the formulation of the Golden Krust concept.

By 1989, Lowell Hawthorne, along with his wife and five of his siblings, decided to continue the family business by opening the first Golden Krust retail location in New York’s Bronx borough. The product was in extremely high demand, thus leading to the construction of the Golden Krust Fact Boxmanufacturing facility in the South Bronx in 1992. This facility still supplies and distributes jerk chicken and nine flavors of patties to more than 120 stores. Golden Krust also feeds the New York City public schools, correctional facilities and has recently gone nation-wide in major retailers such as Walmart and Dollar Tree.

In a few years, Golden Krust became the go-to spot for West Indian food in the Bronx. People were soon knocking on the door seeking opportunities to become a part of the business. The demand was there, so in 1996 Lowell Hawthorne decided to begin franchising the Golden Krust brand, making it the first Caribbean-owned franchisor in the United States.

Franchising provided the Hawthorne family with the means to spread its entrepreneurial spirit. Meanwhile, the next wave of family members – the first generation born in the United States – were beginning to familiarize themselves with the business. Daren Hawthorne, his siblings and cousins grew up running around the manufacturing plant and offices. By high school, Hawthorne was working as a cashier, baker and server in the restaurant.

As an undergraduate at American University in Washington, D.C., he participated in a think tank that helped him develop strategies for introducing younger customers to Golden Krust, amongst other forward-thinking initiatives. After graduating, Hawthorne attended law school at the Southern University Law Center then returned to the family business to become the corporate counsel for Golden Krust.

“The advantage of being a family business is that visceral investment everyone has in the company,” Hawthorne says. “It’s not the typical 9-to-5 [job] where you go home and stop thinking about the company. When you walk around the office you can see that passion everybody has for the business.”

Hawthorne is one of more than 40 members of the family to work for Golden Krust. It’s an impressive level of involvement, but Hawthorne says no one is pushed into the business. “The good thing about this business and this family is you aren’t obligated to come back to the business,” he explains, noting that many of his relatives have gone on to be successful in various fields.

The Hawthorne family and Golden Krust only want to work with franchisees that have a passion for the business and want to be advocates for the brand. “At the end of the day, if you don’t personally love what you are doing we don’t expect you to be an ambassador for us,” Hawthorne says.

Golden Krust values that passion above industry experience, which is why its franchisees come from a broad range of backgrounds. Some come to the restaurant business as a blank slate, but Golden Krust has an extensive training process and support system that positions operators for long-term success.

At the company’s training center in the Bronx, new franchisees learn everything from portion control and customer service to how to run the store’s business functions. Once the initial training phase is done, Golden Krust sends experienced operations managers and executive chefs to the franchisees’ store to oversee the first several weeks of operations until the owner is ready to fly on their own. “By the time you complete our comprehensive training course, you will be a professional and fully capable of operating a successful store,” Hawthorne says.

Going Global

The company has grown to 120 locations in nine states, with plans to expand rapidly in the coming years. Fifteen new stores are already under construction, including two in Canada.

Most Golden Krust restaurants can be found along the East Coast, but the company is beginning to expand westward with two stores expected to open in Houston by the end of the year. By the end of 2021, Golden Krust aims to have 230 total stores, including 32 in international markets, including the United Kingdom.

Fueling that expansion is the rising interest in Jamaican cuisine and culture stemming from the “Brand Jamaica” movement, an initiative from the government-led Jamaica Promotions Agency that highlights cultural, tourism and economic contributions from the Caribbean island. “There aren’t many mainstream Jamaican restaurants that offer our high-quality of bread, pastries, and food so we have a unique channel to grow within,” Hawthorne says.

Although it is growing fast, Hawthorne says the company has taken care to put controls in place to avoid overextending its corporate team. “We’ve been around long enough to be prepared ahead of time for rapid expansion,” Hawthorne says. “We have been expanding the internal teams as well because one thing we don’t want to do is expand too quickly and be spread thin because that would be a disservice to our franchisees.”

Golden Krust’s mission is to bring a taste of the Caribbean to the world. “We do intend to be the McDonald’s of Jamaican cuisine,” Hawthorne notes. “We want that patty to be as familiar as a burger, pizza or hot dog and we’re on our way.”


Contact Us

Franchising Today

Cringleford Business Centre
Intwood Road
Cringleford, Norwich, UK

Click here for a full list of contacts.

Back To Top