Better get moving if you want to be part of new Food Network television series The Bobby Flay Project. The show has completed its pilot phase and is now looking for self-starting restaurant world newcomers to appear in its first round of episodes. Food trucks aren’t eligible, but all other restaurant entrepreneurs are.
Wait a minute. Bobby Flay…reality television show about new restaurant concepts…isn’t this a lot like NBC’s America’s Next Great Restaurant? That’s the Flay-led NBC show that ran in prime time just last spring.
The two shows share a few key elements. Here’s what the producers say they are looking for in their search for The Bobby Flay Project participants:
“A new Food Network series is looking for food entrepreneurs. Specifically, people who have left their previous career to start a new restaurant (or similar business).
• You must have little-to-no prior professional culinary experience.
• You must be planning to open a brick-and-mortar space where there will be walk-in customers (i.e. restaurant, bakery, sandwich shop). Cannot be open already.
“Those interested who fit the guidelines, please email the following:
Outline your timeline, budget, menu team and especially what’s at stake for you in this endeavor (why you are doing it and what risks, financial as well as personal, you are taking). We are highly interested in the ‘human interest’ angle of your story.”
The show’s exact format is under wraps so far. So is its prize structure. All participants are being promised upfront is that “those chosen will receive culinary and business coaching from a major celebrity chef and restaurateur, as well as invaluable national publicity.”
Whatever the final format, lets hope The Bobby Flay Project turns out differently than America’s Next Great Restaurant did. That show’s premise was that the four judges who chose the winning restaurant concept (Flay, Chipotle Mexican Grill boss Steve Ells, and chefs Lorena Garcia and Curtis Stone) would also be the chosen concept’s financial backers. The show was successful on some levels, but the grand finale had the misfortune of being shown on the same evening news of the Osama Bin Laden shooting broke.
America’s Next Great Restaurant’s winning concept, Jamawn Woods’ Soul Daddy restaurant, did open as promise in can’t-miss locations in Los Angeles, New York and at the Mall of America in Minneapolis. Yet the fast casual soul food concept struggled mightily from day one. None of the units stayed in business more than eight weeks. It was a fiasco of major proportions.
Operating capital wasn’t the problem as Chipotle, not Ells and the other judges, turned out to be the major backer of the venture. Chipotle later reported a $2.3 million loss on the Soul Daddy venture. Given this sour outcome, you can expect The Bobby Flay Project to take a different approach to a restaurant startup show.
NBC canceled America’s Next Great Restaurant after one year, citing low viewership. The finale drew just a 2.0 rating. That doesn’t cut it for a prime time show on a major network. But a 2.0 rating would be a sizable number for a Food Network show on basic cable. That’s why a retooled version of this restaurant startup reality show could work its second time around.
One thing we all learned from watching America’s Next Great Restaurant was that there are good reasons inexperienced restaurant operators need help getting their fledgling concepts off the ground. So give your dream restaurant plenty of thought before you fire off your email to the show’s casting team. And remember, this is a reality show, so the more drama, the better. The producers say there is no deadline and that they are casting nationally. Send your email statement to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck!