The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen [TAGCK] opened its first franchise restaurant in Ft Myers, Florida, a growing city on Florida's Southwest coast, in November. This first franchise location is the first of five planned locations to open in South Florida in a development agreement with Ft Myers-based entrepreneur Steven Brown-Cestero.
"It's been amazing," Brown-Cestero said. "We sold out on our first weekend! We've had guests drive two-and-a-half hours just to try us out. The pent-up demand for a place like this is just incredible. I couldn't be more pleased."
Long lines and happy customers are par for the course at The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen. Its two corporate restaurants in San Francisco are daytime staples for local workers, residents and catering clients, all clamoring to sink their teeth into the famous grilled cheese sandwiches, soups and salads prepared fresh daily. With the success of a best-selling grilled cheese cookbook, the company announced a national growth plan in late 2017 as requests were coming in from all over the country to open franchise locations.
"It was our chance to see if and where our beloved grilled cheese concept would flourish," says founder and CEO Nate Pollak.
TAGCK has always prided itself in sourcing unique and local ingredients to craft its menu items. This differentiator, the founders claim, makes the product truly stand out from other sandwich restaurants.
"The grilled cheese is the perfect canvas for a delicious sandwich - it's hot, it's melty, it's filling, and it's pure comfort. But it's also not that complicated to make," claims TAGCK chef and co-founder Heidi Gibson. "That's where responsible sourcing comes in. We've spent a lifetime creating our menu items, selecting ingredients and working with our vendors to create a truly memorable experience."
Initial franchise expansion plans focused on the West and Southwest regions of the country. But it was Brown-Cestero, who had been keen on opening a grilled cheese restaurant in his community, that convinced Pollak & Gibson that Southwest Florida had a budding foodie scene, outstanding local produce, and was the type of market where TAGCK would be a hit.
"Florida was not initially on our radar," says Pollak. But it encouraged us to develop our local grilled cheese restaurant into a franchise poised for national growth. We spent months negotiating and planning with our artisanal suppliers based on the West Coast to be a part of a national supply chain to support our franchise stores. I made five cross-country trips to meet with Floridian produce companies and develop a custom baked Florida sourdough with a local bakery. We did our homework, and the product speaks for itself."
The Ft Myers franchise is situated in a popular commercial plaza on a main thoroughfare through town. The design elements and furniture reflect the original San Francisco store's aesthetic. Pollak and Brown-Cestero worked hand-in-hand to design the location to be the model for future franchises.
The best selling item in Ft Myers? "The Piglet": smoked gouda, Tillamook sharp cheddar, Sonoma artisan cured ham, caramelized apple spread, and seasoned roma tomatoes on rosemary-buttered whole grain bread. Don't forget to add a side of the crispy maple Brussels sprouts.
"We're currently in sales discussions with our next franchise partners. We have the supply chain, the operation, and an exceptional team and culture. It's a really exciting time for us."
TAGCK is actively recruiting qualified franchisees and accredited investors to partner in their expansion. Visit tagck.com to learn more about The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, and for franchise information contact
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