Judy Kneiszel

Ones To Watch: Yummy Cupcakes

When Tiffini Soforenko first told her husband, Nik, that she wanted to open a cupcake bakery, his response was, “You don’t bake.”

But Soforenko, who worked as director of operations at Universal Studios Hollywood for more than 15 years, says she knew how to bake, she just didn’t have the time. That changed when she created Yummy Cupcakes in 2004.

Soforenko has been devoted to baking ever since and now has more than 400 proprietary cupcake recipes, including 94 vegan and 23 sugar-free cupcake varieties.

Ones To Watch: Chronic Tacos

Chronic Tacos CEO Michael Mohammed says it’s the recipes that make his California-based quick-serve concept stand out in the fast-casual Mexican food arena.

“The founders bought the recipes from a family friend, who was third-generation Mexican-American,” Mohammed says. “The flavor is more authentic. The recipes are a little more complicated, and you really notice the flavors.”

Ones To Watch: Flippin’ Pizza

In a world of novel-length menus and menuboards that fill entire walls, Flippin’ Pizza stands out for the simplicity of its offerings. Customers choose their sauce preference: white or red. There’s only one crust option, and whole pies come in an 18-inch size only. Pizza can be ordered by the slice, and the adventurous eater can get a calzone or a salad. But that’s the extent of it. And that’s the way founder Patrick Farley likes it.

Ones to Watch: b.good

Friends since sixth grade, Anthony Ackil and Jon Olinto talked about starting a business together for years. They could only agree on one idea, however, and that was “making fast food real.”

Ackil and Olinto trace their appreciation of “real food” to being fed after school by Ackil’s Uncle Faris, who dispensed both home-cooked meals and advice, often reminding the boys to “be good.”

Eventually, the two created a restaurant concept called b.good with the tagline “real.food.fast.”

Ones To Watch: Sub Zero Ice Cream

Sub Zero Ice Cream serves up theater, science, and frozen desserts, bowl by individual bowl. Each Sub Zero customer selects one of six bases, which include higher-fat premium, custard, or classic, as well as healthier options: low-fat, yogurt, or lactose-free rice and soymilk. Next, the customer selects flavors and mix-ins, then watches as they’re combined with the liquid base in a metal bowl and blasted with -321-degree liquid nitrogen. The concoction freezes instantly.

One to Watch: Costa Vida Fresh Mexican Grill

A decade ago, JD and Sarah Gardner returned home to Utah from a trip to Cabo San Lucas, inspired by the surfing culture and local cuisine of the Baja Peninsula Coast. Soon after, the pair opened Costa Vida Fresh Mexican Grill.

Sean Collins and Dave Rutter—who were partners in a family entertainment center in Provo, Utah, at the time—saw the success of the original Costa Vida and became the concept’s first franchisees. Over the next four years, Costa Vida grew to 22 units, and in November 2009, Collins and Rutter bought the franchise, becoming CEO and president, respectively.

One to Watch: Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina

Prior to purchasing Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina from its founder in 2011, CEO Phil Friedman spent 11 years expanding McAlister’s Deli from 27 to 300 units.

These days, he and Salsarita’s president and COO Larry Reinstein are looking to grow the fresh-Mex concept. And grow it has, with a double-digit percentage growth in average unit volume that Friedman attributes to menu refinements he’s pushed forward since taking over the chain.