The Grilled Cheese Sandwich Is the Ultimate Comfort Food.
Remember as a child craving the great taste, that first bite of gooey cheese, crunchy toast, the buttery flavor… wow! Next to the hamburger, would you say this might be our favorite hand held treat?
As adults we still like our hamburgers but newer adult comfort food burger concepts like Smashburger have recognized that we have graduated from McDonalds and Burger King. For example, look at Smashburger's smashsides menu and check out smash fries. These are not your run of the mill fries as they are tossed with rosemary, olive oil and garlic. The Five Guys Burgers and Fries chain similarly focuses on the adult comfort food burger market.
So why don't we have an adult grilled cheese chain of fast casual restaurants? If Eric Powell has his way, you will soon have your wish, namely Meltworks, a grown-up grilled cheese fast casual restaurant chain.
Americas Next Great Restaurant
Eric was one of the finalists on the NBC reality TV series " Americas Next Great Restaurant. If you have not seen it, the show was a reality TV series featuring aspiring restaurantpreneurs seeking their claim to fame in founding and growing the next greatest fast casual restaurant concept.
Eric heard about America's Next Great Restaurant in late 2009. The show was looking for a food entrepreneur with the right stuff that they could back, both financially and with the judge's collective experience. The goal for the show was to have 3 proof of concept restaurants open in Las Vegas, Mall of America and New York City... all at the same time! The simultaneous openings were the Achilles heel of the show and a setup for failure. The winner's restaurants, Soul Daddy, are the unfortunate proof to their folly, all of which were closed in an astonishing 60 day period.
Americas Next Great Restaurant was seeking "restaurantpreneurs" like Eric. Having made the cut as a Top 10 finalist, he packed his bags for the reality TV series filming in Los Angeles. The rest is history? Or maybe not?
A Food Entrepreneur's Early Struggles
Eric joined with his business partner and friend, Trevor Snowden, in 2006. Eric recounts the classic food entrepreneur's early journey, "We both worked full-time jobs, but spent nights and weekends in the kitchen testing sandwiches and working on our business plan so we could raise money from investors. We didn't have enough money ourselves to do it the way we wanted to do it and a loan was not an option" . Food entrepreneurs almost always start "in the kitchen".
As is the case with many budding food entrepreneurs no amount of planning can totally avoid unforeseen circumstances."When we actively started to look for investors, the economy started to turn sharply downward making it increasingly difficult to find investors…"
. A proof of concept is difficult enough to pitch… it only exists on paper. When you combine the unproven grilled cheese fast casual concept along with the fact that both Eric and Trevor were first time food entrepreneurs... well, I think you get the picture of the hurdles they faced.Products and Brief Descriptions
Meltworks is a fast-casual restaurant format specializing in "grown-up grilled cheese sandwiches." So what are grown-up grilled cheese sandwiches? They are made from artisan cheeses, no Kraft American Cheese Sliceshere! Add freshly baked breads, a variety of meats, veggies and other toppings and then create a truly unique customer experience - the "create your own". A core differentiator of the Meltworks concept is empowering the customer to try new combinations. The "create your owns" that are popular make it to the "Featured" sandwich menu.