Monday, February 2, 2015

Tom + Chee Secures "Home Run" Location on the Westside

Grilled cheese franchise headed to the westside 

Cincinnati, Ohio-based Tom + Chee plans to opens its next Atlanta area location on the westside.  The new grilled cheese and tomato soup eatery will open at the new Westside Ironworks redevelopment on Howell Mill Road, across from Westside Provisions.  

Tom + Chee will be located in a 2,650 square foot space, with visibility from Howell Mill Road.  

Barcelona Wine Bar from Norwalk, Connecticut-based Barteca Restaurant Group is also opening in the project.  Barcelona will be located in a roughly 4,000 square foot freestanding building, the only space shown to have a patio.  

Tom + Chee entered the Atlanta market this past April with a location in Kennesaw near the intersection of Ernest Barrett & Cobb Parkways.  A new Tom + Chee is scheduled to open this Friday in Alpharetta near North Point Mall.  Another location in Buford near the Mall of Georgia is expected to open in early March.   

Tom & Chee specializes in assorted "gourmet" grilled cheese sandwiches, but is perhaps most famous for their "grilled cheese doughnut." Yes, that's exactly what it sounds like. 

Friends Corey Ward and Trew Quackenbush started selling grilled cheese sandwiches from a tent in Cincinnati in December 2009.  In 2013, the "cheesy" duo convinced Barbara Corcoran and Mark Cuban of ABC's Shark Tank that their simple idea was worth serious money.  The two sharks  invested $600,000 as equal partners with a 30%  stake in the company.  The cash infusion allowed the entrepreneurs to renovate their existing locations and expand their franchise offerings.

A Shark Tank "Update" episode is scheduled to air tomorrow at 8PM on ABC, Channel 2 WSB, locally.  

This past July, the company relocated their company headquarters, relocated their original restaurant to a space 50% larger, and laid off six employees from the corporate team.  

Tom + Chee co-founder Trew Quackenbush said of the layoffs "It's something we have to do to make sure we keep growing in the right way."   Quackenbush went on to say that "rapid growth" made them "overshoot."  Quackenbush also said that while the company has 180 stores "under contract," finding "home run" retail space has been difficult.

There is no doubt that the visibility that the westside location provides the eatery is a "home run." I wonder, though, how the chain will afford what is surely premium rent in a new development with such a moderately priced product.  

According to the Kennesaw franchisee, there are currently three active franchise groups in metro Atlanta, each with their own territory.  

Today Tom + Chee operates a total of 20 locations with about a dozen more (including Alpharetta & Buford, but excluding Westside), listed as coming soon.  

Have you been to a Tom + Chee?  Did you see Tom + Chee on Shark Tank?  Do you think a "gourmet grilled cheese" eatery is a winning recipe for restaurant success?  

Please share your thoughts below.  


Anonymous said...

Tried the one in Kennesaw and it was very UNDER-WELMING. Just very average food and their buidout looked like some amateur put the place together.

G.G. said...

On the other hand, I've visited the Kennesaw Tom + Chee four times now, and always enjoyed the meal and the experience, although I'd certainly agree that the location is unfortunate. A space recently opened up nearby on Chastain - Chilito's closed, surprising nobody - in that crazy-busy strip center in front of Marlow's Tavern and Cook Out, and Tom + Chee would probably do even better there, if parking can be found.

I was surprised to learn that Atlanta has three separate franchise areas. Is Howell Mill in the Kennesaw group's patch, or in the Alpharetta team's patch, or is this patch # 3?

Anonymous said...

I was also very underwhelmed by my lunch at the Kennesaw location.

I saw the guys on Shark Tank, and loved the idea of it, particularly as a vegetarian. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I certainly didn't find it to be a "gourmet" experience.

I didn't want any soup, but I did get a "dipper" of the chunky tomato soup to have with my sandwich. It tasted like it was straight out of the can.

It's still better than McDonalds, though, so there's that...

Anonymous said...

I've been to Tom + Chee in Louisville. You can't get your expectations too high when heading into a 'gormet' grilled cheese restaurant. It's just bread and cheese after all.

I did like my sandwich and soup. Added bacon because... well... bacon.

Amy said...

Very disappointed they did this concept for such a cool project. This is underwhelming and belongs in the suburbs with a ton of families and I predict it will not survive here. Far from home run.

Anonymous said...

it's a freaking grilled cheese sandwich. do you really have to go out and buy one??? i can make a thousand variations in my sleep. and no, i don't want to deal with opening a business based on a freaking grilled cheese sandwich.

Sammy said...

Does anyone have info on when (or if) Howell Mill is going to be widened in that area to accommodate the increases in vehicular and pedestrian traffic? It's already nightmarish. If not widened, how about purposeful traffic calming measures? And wider sidewalks? And maybe burying all of the overhead, tacky power lines? Or is it basically a free-for-all?

AJ said...

That's funny Sammy. Welcome to Atlanta. Build build build, but ignore infrastructure.

Anonymous said...

A traffic circle at Howell Mill and Brady would help with that, possibly ending the vehicular collisions that frequently occur when a driver under-negotiates the left turn from Brady onto Howell Mill.

Anonymous said...

Being ITP and wanting traffic calming is funny. If you want that, there is a suburb for that kinda thing.

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