My husband and I are fairly obsessed with the NBC reality show America’s Next Great Restaurant, which comes on before The Celebrity Apprentice, which I’m proud to say I’ve never actually watched. If you haven’t seen any of America’s Next Great Restaurant‘s inaugural season, here’s the gist: Ten regular American people present their ideas for a what’s essentially a future mass-casual fast-food restaurant chain to chef and Food Network personality Bobby Flay, the guy who founded Chipolte (Steve Ells), Lorena Garcia, a chef and TV host in Latin America (never heard of her until now), and that model-esque Australian chef, Curtis Stone, who’s been popping up all over the place lately. They’re called the “investors,” because at the end of the season, if they like your concept enough, they’ll invest in your idea and help you open three of your own restaurants across the U.S. And they’re only going to pick one winner. (The “investors” keep referring to the investment capital as their actual money. This I’d like to see, people.)
A twist in this competition is that, aside from being very marketable and appealing on a mass level, the winning concept should have some kind of healthy-ish angle to it (somewhat like Chipolte, apparently, although I’ve never set foot inside one). In other words, these “investors” ain’t looking to open the next Mickey D’s or KFC or Wendy’s or Burger King. (Well, I mean, from a financial perspective they are, but this restaurant’s offerings need to be a lot healthier and more sustainable than those other fast-food chains.)
I like that idea, even though some of the contestants (remaining and kicked off) have been stuck on meatballs, sausage, and waffles, so I’m not exactly sure how that’s going to turn into a plan to help decrease soaring obesity rates in the U.S. (There was a very fierce lady contestant and former WNBA basketball player with a go-get-’em attitude trying to push something called a “Sports Wrap,” but it always looked disgusting and I never quite got the appeal. Neither did the “investors.” She’s long gone.)
Personally, I’m partial to Spice Coast (formerly The Tiffin Box), the mass-casual Indian-food restaurant concept that’s exactly the kind of place I’d eat at every day for lunch if I could. (Plus, I trust that its potential founder, Sudhir Kandula, who’s some kind of software engineer millionaire, would know how to run a railroad. I mean, c’mon — his surname sounds like “can-do!”) I’m also rooting for Soul Daddy (formerly W3′s — thank God someone convinced him to change that name), which is the brainchild of Jamawn Woods, a self-employed caterer/cook with a family to support. I have no problem with soul food, as long as it’s good. But Woods just needs to make it a little healthier across the board if he wants people like me to eat it more often than once a month.
So what do you think: What kind of new mass-casual fast-food restaurant would get your regular business if it were to open in the very near future in your neighborhood? Take our poll, and then tell us why you made your choice in our comments section, below.
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photo courtesy of NBC Studios