Apologies for coming late to this story. The winner of NBC's America's Next Great Restaurant, which initially opened locations in LA, New York, and Minneapolis, is now down to just one restaurant in the Mall of America.
I enthusiastically watched this show from the beginning. Having one of my feet firmly planted in the 'foodietainment' scene, this contest made me giddy. We were going to see a dozen or so concepts refined and ridiculed until only one was left standing. Unfortunately, as the season was coming to an end I lost interest, but eventually heard the winner was Soul Daddy - a concept centered around "healthier" soul food. Whaaat!?
Rather than critique the judges choice for who won the show (which is definitely up for debate), what's more intriguing is the prize these judge/investors decided upon -- opening up three locations. Bobby Flay, Curtis Stone, Lorena Garcia, and Chipotle's Steve Ells are very intelligent, business-saavy people. Did they never imagine the concept they chose would face the hurdles it's facing now. Did they expect their "Midas touch" to set things in motion? Will the egg be on their face if Soul Daddy sinks even in the Mall of America? That wouldn't exactly call for a second season.
Having never opened a restaurant, I appreciated what this show tried to do -- to give average Americans an inside look into the restaurant business. As the show tried to convey, starting a restaurant isn't easy. There are tons of moving parts that must align in order to reach success. There are unexpected complications, kinks, and a constant cycle of trial and error. I clearly understood that from watching the show.
I'm just a little surprised that the expert judges (and/or NBC) seemed to have declared "Mission Accomplished" just a little too soon. If "Game Over" comes sooner than later for Soul Daddy, it will be interesting to hear the reaction from Flay, Stone, Garcia, and Ells. Perhaps picking the next great restaurant was a feat even they underestimated.
Your Thoughts! As a restaurant owner or being in the industry, are you surprised that the other two locations closed down so quickly? Were they trying to do too much too fast? Or is the concept just a dud?