In the 10 years since “Shark Tank” made its TV debut, the Sharks (aka investors) have heard hundreds of pitches from aspiring entrepreneurs hoping to turn a passion for food into a million-dollar business. Most are pushing products or kitchen gadgets targeted to consumers. Ideas for restaurants or foodservice operations have barely made a ripple in the tank.
But the momentum seems to have picked up, perhaps a result of the blockbuster success of concepts such as Cousins Maine Lobster. After buy-in from “Shark Tank” investor Barbara Corcoran in 2013 to expand that business from a single Los Angeles food truck, Cousins now boasts 21 trucks across 13 cities, seven brick-and-mortar locations and an established franchise model.
So which of these recent “Shark Tank” investments has the potential to become the next Cousins Maine Lobster? Click through and make a pick.
1. OatMeals: Jumping on a health trend
With the push toward plant-based dishes and health-promoting ingredients, grains are getting a lot of attention on menus. Samantha Stephens zeroed in on budget-friendly, nutritious oats as the grain of choice for OatMeals, the oatmeal cafe she launched in New York City in 2012. OatMeals also capitalizes on two other top menu trends—comfort food and customization. Guests build their own bowls, choosing from three sizes—Baby Bear, Mama Bear and Papa Bear—and more than 80 toppings.
Stephens’ oat bowls go beyond breakfast to include many savory applications. On an episode that aired this past December, Stephens sweetened her pitch by bringing along sample bowls flavored with ingredients such as bacon, shaved Parmesan cheese, truffle oil, sea salt and pepper.
2. Beyond Sushi: Catering to vegans
Full-time vegans make up a small percentage of American diners, but the flexitarian way of eating—going vegan only sometimes—is a growing trend. Beyond Sushi fulfills that demand. According to customer feedback gathered at the stores, about 60% of patrons aren’t vegans—they come instead for the inventive sushi made with colorful vegetables, fruits and grains; no raw fish or seafood is on the menu. Also on offer are plant-based salads, noodle soups, wraps and dumplings. All the items are available for catering, a major focus of the concept.
Guy Vaknin, executive chef and owner of Beyond Sushi, wants to expand his six-unit fast casual to the West Coast. When he made his pitch on air last October, guest Shark Matt Higgins, CEO of private investment firm RSE Ventures, partnered with Lori Greiner on an investment of $1.5 million in the business. The money stipulates a 30% partnership in West Coast operations and 15% in East Coast stores.
3. Avocaderia: A menu for Instagram fans
Avocaderia, an eatery within the Industry City Food Hall in Brooklyn, N.Y., has been serving up avocado-centric toasts, salads, bowls and smoothies since April 2017. The photogenic avocado toast creations have turned the concept into an Instagram hit, with fans packing in to sample those and other globally influenced fare. Founders Francesco Brachetti, Alberto Gramigni and Alessandro Biggi infuse the menu with Italian, Mexican, Japanese and Egyptian flavors.
In February 2018, Biggi pitched the Sharks, hoping to win a $300,000 investment to expand the millennial-friendly Avocaderia to other urban centers. He ended up landing $400,000, jointly contributed by Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran, who received a 20% stake in the company in return. In May of last year, the partners established an outpost in Manhattan and plan to open 20 restaurants over the next four years, starting with Los Angeles and San Diego, according to reports.
4. Yumble Kids: Pleasing picky palates and stressed parents
Joanna Parker, a parent and chef, saw a void for healthy, quality prepared meals designed for children, and filled it by co-founding Yumble Kids with her husband, David. Busy parents feeding picky eaters, kids with allergies, strict vegetarians and other challenges signed up for the meal subscription service, and the business took off. Although meal delivery companies are not in the restaurant space, they continue to compete for a bigger share of the prepared food dollar. And Yumble Kids offers more than 20 fully cooked choices—more than most restaurant kids’ menus—all priced between $6.99 and $7.99.
The Parkers pitched the idea on “Shark Tank” this past December, and Skinnygirl founder Bethenny Frankel took the bait. She ultimately offered $500,000 for 6% equity, and Yumble Kids accepted the deal. As part of the package, Frankel offered to act as spokesperson for the business.