|Industry||Food & Beverage|
|Founded||Ra'anana, Israel (1996 )|
Number of locations
|36 in 2018|
|Australia, Israel, Japan, Russia, United States|
Max Brenner (Hebrew: מקס ברנר) is an Israeli multinational chocolate restaurant and retail brand headquartered in New York City, United States. The company operates more than 50 locations internationally, the majority (38) of which are in Australia.[needs update] Other locations include eight in Israel, three in the United States, one each in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, as well as in Japan, Singapore, Russia, and China. The company's mantra is that it is creating a new chocolate culture by inviting people to watch, taste and smell its love story. It specializes in decadent, chocolate-based desserts such as fondue, crepes, milkshakes, waffles, and hot chocolate, many of which it serves in signature utensils. Max Brenner is owned by Yaniv Shtanger and Dudu Vaknin.
According to the founders of Max Brenner, "chocolate is not just about taste. It’s a symbol of different aspects in our lives – of romance, of sensuality, of decadence. These aspects actually create the new chocolate culture of Max Brenner." Max Brenner chocolates are certified kosher by the Nazareth Illit Rabbinate.
1996–2001: An emerging company
The firm was founded in 1996 in Ra'anana, Israel, by Max Fichtman and Oded Brenner (Hebrew: עודד ברנר) who combined their names. The business began as a small shop selling handmade chocolates.
Working as an apprentice in Paris in 1994, Brenner met chocolatier Michel Chaudun and convinced the maestro to take him on. He spent the following six years learning the art of chocolate-making in Paris.
Upon his return to Israel in 1996, he opened a small retail chocolate shop with a workshop in the back, named "Handmade Chocolate by Max Brenner", name derived from Oded's last name and co-founder Max Fichtman's first name—in Ra’anana, just outside Tel Aviv. By 1999, Fichtman and Brenner had opened ten chocolate shops.
A chance meeting with an Israeli entrepreneur in 1999 sparked the idea of expanding his business, and the first of the Max Brenner-branded cafes opened in Australia, in Sydney's hip suburb of Paddington, in 2000. This newly opened “Max Brenner Chocolate Bar” was to be the centre of Max's new chocolate culture, combining a chocolate bar and a chocolate shop. This allowed people to enjoy a “holistic” chocolate adventure, experiencing their shopping in the bar section and shopping their experience in the shop section.
2001–2017: The Strauss years
In 2001, the chain became part of the Strauss, Israel's second-largest food and beverage company. In the period from 2002 to 2005, Max Brenner opened locations in Israel, Singapore and the Philippines, while continuing to open new locations in Australia. In 2006, Max Brenner opened their first chocolate bar in the United States in New York City.
In 2010, a new Max Brenner restaurant and chocolate store opened in the U.S. at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, followed by another store opening in Boston and Philadelphia during the next year, offering both sweet and savory menu options.
In 2013, the company unveiled a new strategy, under which it started to move away from full-service restaurants and adopted a fast-casual concept named a Chocolate Bar. The first of these opened in Bethesda, Maryland in June 2013, with three more opening in Tokyo, Japan and Moscow, Russia via franchise agreements. The company opened its second US Chocolate Bar in Paramus, NJ in April 2014. In Australia, Max Brenner had expanded to 37 restaurants across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, the Northern Territory, and the Australian Capital Territory.
Since 2017: Independent again
In May 2017 Strauss group sold Max Brenner brand to Israeli franchisees Yaniv Shtanger and Dudu Vaknin for 18 million NIS (US$5 million).
On 1 October 2018 Max Brenner's Australian business went into voluntary administration, citing rising costs and sluggish retail trade. On 8 October 2018 20 of the 37 Australian Max Brenner locations were permanently closed. In November 2018 the Australian cinema owner and singer Roy Mustaca bought the 17 remaining Australian Max Brenner franchises out of receivership.
Max Brenner Australia is 100% Australian Owned
Max Brenner Australia is now 100% Australian owned and operated. The Australian brand has been acquired by the Vitocco family of Narellen as of 2019 who have implemented new leadership with a renewed focus on building the brand for growth. Max Brenner is expanding in Australia and New Zealand with 24 stores established across Australia. In 2021 alone, 2 new stores have opened and 5 new stores are scheduled to open before the end of 2021, with more on the horizon. Max Brenner Australia is continuing to develop the iconic Max Brenner menu with a variety of new delectable desserts launched in July 2021.
Max Brenner restaurants offer a large selection of chocolate-based dishes, including chocolate waffles and crepes, fondues, ice creams, hot chocolate drinks, smoothies, and chocolate martinis. Max Brenner's chocolate pizza was featured in a February 2011 segment of Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate. The restaurant takes a "whimsical" approach to food, with menus divided into sections such as “For Dipping,” “For Your Hands,” and “With Knife and Fork.”
In February 2014, the Max Brenner store in Bethesda introduced a pastry program with new items including a chocolate babka, a chocolate chunk scone, a banana whiskey torte, and an assortment of cookies and brownies. The pastry program will be released globally.
The Strauss Group states on their website that they provide care packages to soldiers in the IDF's Golani Brigade, leading to activists targeting Max Brenner stores for boycotts Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. In 2011, pro-Palestinian activist group Students for Palestine organized a series of protests outside Max Brenner outlets in Australia. The protest in Melbourne led to 19 arrests.
The protests have drawn condemnation from then Australian Foreign Minister (and former Prime Minister) Kevin Rudd, who remarked “I don't think in 21st-century Australia there is a place for the attempted boycott of a Jewish business.” In September 2011, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said that "the protesters had not broken federal competition law because the protests did not cause substantial loss or damage to the Max Brenner chocolate stores." Some pro-Palestinian organizations including Australians for Palestine have distanced themselves from the protests but have publicly defended the choice of Max Brenner as a boycott target. In October 2011, Izzat Abdulhadi, head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia said that he is against the "full-scale" BDS campaign, and in particular expressed his anger over the occasionally violent protests at the Max Brenner stores, saying, "BDS is a non-violent process and I don't think it's the right of anybody to use BDS as a violent action or to prevent people from buying from any place."
Protest organizers consistently denied that the protests were violent, and instead accused the police of acting with brutality.
Julia Gillard denounced the planned protest against the Max Brenner shop on the Kensington campus of University of New South Wales, accusing the organizers of engaging in an ugly attempt to spread anti-Semitism and Holocaust-denial. In a survey conducted by the university to ascertain which new stores students and faculty wanted on campus, a Max Brenner chocolate shop was the second most popular choice.
Max Brenner Australia spokespersons stated that the sole shareholders of the franchise operation in Australia are a young Australian couple who have no direct connection to the Strauss Group. The franchise employs over 1,100 Australian residents across four states.
In May 2013, The Australian national newspaper reported on a YouTube video segment featuring an interview with Palestine Action Group Sydney spokesperson Patrick Harrison at a protest outside the Parramatta Max Brenner store. Harrison stated in the interview: "financially speaking there isn't really any connection between this Max Brenner store in particular and Israel," and that the retail outlet has become a "cultural ambassador for Israel", which the newspaper used to argue that protests were unjustified. In response, the Palestine Action Group pointed out earlier reports by the Australian acknowledging that Max Brenner is a brand of the Strauss Group. Harrison responded by pointing out that Max Brenner's Australian franchise operations are referenced in the Strauss Group's annual report, and argued that the Australian franchisees should hand back their licenses to Strauss to signal their opposition to Strauss's support for the Israeli occupation.
In the early 2010s BDS activists protested outside the Clarendon St, South Melbourne, store handing leaflets to people passing by. In October 2014 this store closed.
Awards and recognition
- "Max Brenner Locations". Retrieved September 30, 2014.
- Thorn, Bret (April 7, 2014). "Max Brenner moves toward fast-casual format". Nation's Restaurant News. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
- "Max Brenner: Branches". Retrieved February 19, 2009.
- Broadway, Donna (July 25, 2013). "Chocolate lovers now have a new local heaven". The Sentiel. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
- Bruni, Frank (May 2, 2007). "You Can Almost Eat the Dishes". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- Ramanathan, Lavanya (July 31, 2013). "Max Brenner Chocolate Bar opens in Bethesda, serving all chocolate everything". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
- Life is Sweet at Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man
- Questions about kosher chocolate
- Milking It
- Chocolate pinnacle: Max Brenner's new place takes the treat to a new tier
- "Life is sweet for chocolate master". The Age. Melbourne.
- The Jewish Chronicle – Max Brenner brings Israeli ingenuity to an international passion
- Max Brenner
- Trinity Completes Construction of Chocolate-Themed Restaurant
- About Us – Max Brenner
- Targeted chocolatier Max Brenner 'a man of peace'
- "Max Brenner to open large new Las Vegas store". Yedioth Ahronoth. Retrieved October 26, 2011.
- "Company Overview of Max Brenner International Inc". Bloomberg Businessweek. Bloomberg. 2013. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- Lavanya Ramanathan (April 24, 2013). "Max Brenner Chocolate Bar brings all-day dessert to Bethesda". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- "Max Brenner Chocolate Bars; EU Gateway Program". Japan Times. November 19, 2013. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
- Pacyniak, Bernie (March 26, 2014). "Welcome to Russia Max Brenner!". Candy Industry. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
- Verdon, Joan (April 11, 2014). "Chocolate-themed dessert-only restaurant opens at Garden State Plaza" (PDF). The Record. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
- "Internal Documents".
- Max Brenner International Inc., Bloomberg Business Week
- "Food Network". Archived from the original on March 8, 2011. Retrieved February 20, 2011.
- Lunch, Anyone? Max Brenner, Go for the chocolate, stay for the food
- Friedman, Ron (December 14, 2010). "Strauss reposts IDF-support commitment on website". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
- McGregor, Ken (August 22, 2011). "Boycott boiling point". Adelaide Advertiser. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
- Brull, Michael. "The campaign against the Max Brenner protesters". The Drum. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
- "Australian lawmakers support Israeli business". JTA. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
- Max Brenner demonstrators did not break law, Aussie panel finds Archived September 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
- Flitton, Daniel (July 11, 2011). "Citizen Rudd's sweet support for cafe". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved September 12, 2011.
- Sabawi, Samah (August 16, 2011). "Murdoch Press and the Fictional Jewish Chocolatier". The Palestine Chronicle. Retrieved September 12, 2011.
- "Press Council adjudication No 1513". The Australian. November 14, 2011. Retrieved November 16, 2011.
- Palestinian consul rejects BDS violence
- Julia Gillard denounces activists as anti-Israel protest turns anti-Semitic
- The ugly face of student activism
- Anti-Israel rally draws small crowd at UNSW Max Brenner protest
- varietygarage (March 2, 2013). "VG: Chocolate Wars; Protest For Palestine (Max Brenner, Sydney 2012)" (Video upload). YouTube. Google, Inc. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- Christian Kerr (May 2, 2013). "Protests lack link to Israel: BDS fan". The Australian. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- "Palestine Action Group (Syd) Media Release: Palestine supporters vow to continue campaign for justice". Retrieved November 20, 2014.
- Patrick Harrison (May 18, 2013). "Why boycott Max Brenner: a response to The Australian". Green Left Weekly. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
- "2014 Webby Awards: Max Brenner wins for best food and drink website". New York Daily News. April 28, 2014. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
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