The Times photo by Betsy Reason
Matt and Liz Griffin, who have four children and one on the way, have opened I Heart Mac & Cheese, the first in the midwest, in Westfield.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason Matt and Liz Griffin, who have four children and one on the way, have opened I Heart Mac & Cheese, the first in the midwest, in Westfield.
How does owning and operating a restaurant franchise fit with the lifestyle of a growing family whose bread winners are police officers?
The Griffins - Matt, 41, and Liz, 39, who are raising four kids with one on the way -- last Wednesday were busy making sure that their guests were taken care of after they cut the ribbon during the grand opening of their new restaurant, the first of its kind in the Midwest.
Matt Griffin is hoping to retire from Noblesville Police Department, where he is a patrol officer of 20 years. Liz Griffin retired earlier this year from Westfield Police Department, where she was a patrol officer for 18 years. “I decided to do this full time and stay home with our family. We’ve got a baby on the way. Between he and I, we’re just doing the balancing act, like everybody else.”
Their baby is due July 6. “Right now, I just come in while I’m able and, after the baby is born, I’ll be a lot more present,” she said. “Then, we’re hoping to open more restaurants this year and next year.” They’re looking at Noblesville and Fishers, the latter of which is their city of residence.
“We get to choose where we like, then corporate (headquarters) down in Florida, they will look at the area and do the research with us,” she said.
Their Westfield store is at 637 East Indiana 32, not far from Grand Park. “This place was definitely on the map for us, just with me working for Westfield. I love the City of Westfield. I just love this community and the fact that Grand Park had just opened up (in 2014). This just seemed like the right fit for the first location. Westfield is a growing community but it’s still that small-town feel that we really like. So this seemed like the best fit for the first place.”
Liz (Hood) Griffin is a Hamilton County native, born and raised in Carmel and a 1999 graduate of Carmel High School. Her husband graduated from Fort Wayne Snider in northern Indiana. Both had attended the cadet officer program at Indiana University but never knew each other.
They actually met in Hamilton County through the police departments when both were working the night shift. “We just crossed paths,” Liz Griffin said. “We were chatting, and that’s how we met.”
Earlier, he was driving through Westfield and had seen her on the side of the road with a traffic stop.
That was 15 years ago. They’ve now been married for 11 years. Their children are Michael, 7, Gabriel, 5, Raphael, 2, and Jordan, 16, and a boy on the way.
Liz Griffin said her late mom, who died last March, wasn’t pleased that Liz wanted to be a police officer. “But it was a good fit for me,” she said. “I got hired here (WPD) right out of college.” Matt Griffin also was hired at NPD right out of college.
The Griffins started a lawn and landscape business about five years ago and it’s been successful. And while they didn’t have any prior restaurant experience, they became intrigued with I Heart Mac & Cheese, which was in the Top 100 franchises in the United States in Entrepreneur Magazine. “There’s nothing like this around. This is going to be a home run. Everybody loves mac and cheese,” she said.
According to the company’s website, the franchise fee is $35,000 for the first unit and $17,500 for all additional units. “We have been saving. We have been very frugal over the years. We have just put a lot of faith in God and just decided that this is the next adventure for us,” she said.
The initial investment, including the franchise fee, initial construction buildout and opening advertising, is $216,000 to $355,000, according to the company’s website. And building was fairly simple because there was no need for a hood system, no need for grease traps and no need for gas lines since all of the equipment uses electricity.
With money invested, Liz Griffin said they signed their loan two days before the pandemic in March. “What did we do? What did we get ourselves into?” They asked themselves those questions. “We were scared to death. We had no idea what this country was going to look like,” she said. They pushed their opening back from May. “We decided to go ahead and open in June (17th) and we just put a lot of faith in God, and we prayed about it …”
The Griffins are wanting their restaurant opening to “give people a glimmer of hope” for the future .. that some sense of normalcy will slowly return to our lives.
Since Liz Griffin left the WPD, she has been at home with their kids, and when she needs to come into the store, she leaves the kids with Grandma. Her husband is at the store a few hours each day that he has time off from NPD. The Griffins have hired a manager who oversees their 30 employees.
What in their lives has prepared the couple for this adventure? “Our careers in law enforcement have grounded us. We have the gift of perspective. It’s really nice to be on the flip side of things .. It’s a different mentality. Now, we get to be part of the community … we get to see people at their best,” Liz Griffin said.
She thinks her mom would be proud. “I think she’s looking down on us.”
Her husband said, “I think the multitasking from the police department” combined with college, has helped the most in their new adventure. But he attributes more help to being spiritual. “Being faithful in my walk with Jesus. Leaving it out there. But not only hoping for the best but praying for the best” has helped immensely, said Matt Griffin, who also reads and listens to the best-selling author and radio host Dave Ramsey, America’s voice on money.
For Matt Griffin, opening a restaurant is a dream. “I never thought it would happen, because I always wanted something that wasn’t in Indiana,” he said.
But when he learned about I Heart Mac and Cheese, he knew it was the right fit. “And,” while his kids love mac and cheese, he also discovered that most adults do, too. He asked, “Who doesn’t like mac and cheese?”

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com