Salad days over for single-item restaurants?

Yesterday, the remaining assets of the once-proud restaurant chain called Crumbs went into a bankruptcy auction. TV host Marcus Lemonis scooped up—forgive us—the crumbs left from Crumbs for $6.5 million. Lemonis hopes to revive the cupcake outpost, albeit as a different and smaller version of the 48-unit, 12-state chain that collapsed suddenly last month, leaving many to wonder how an eatery that was so popular could disappear so fast.

As it turns out, there were many reasons for the crumbling of Crumbs, ranging from supply issues (Crumbs relied entirely on contracted commercial bakeries) to an ill-starred IPO in 2011. But Crumbs’ biggest problem might have been those cupcakes. In restaurant parlance, the chain was a single-item concept, and the restaurant’s failure has led some to wonder if that business plan is really as good as it sounds. As Technomic analyst Darren Tristano was quoted as saying recently, “a cupcake shop today can’t survive on just cupcakes.” Adds Atlanta-based menu consultant Nancy Kruse: “Single-item franchises are a very tricky proposition.”

Not that such common sense has hindered the onslaught of single-item joints— which AOL Food dubbed “one of the hottest food trends for 2014.” To name just a few, there’s Potatotopia (just potatoes), Empire Biscuit (just biscuits), Flex Mussels (just mussels) and Puddin’ (just pudding). Mac Bar will serve you just macaroni, and S’Mac dishes up just macaroni and cheese. And if you’re too chicken to try any of those, head for The Nugget Spot, which makes only chicken nuggets.

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