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    Where Are They Now?

  • Catching up with the brands we thought were the next big thing.

    Toppers Pizza
    Toppers has grown from 18 units to 57 since it was featured as One to Watch in July 2008.



    Originally featured: May 2008

    Then: 27 units • Now: 32 units

    George Couchell’s mixed-menu concept continues to thrive—in the Charlotte, North Carolina, market. Couchell opened his first Showmars in 1982, and by 2008, the brand had grown to 27 stores within a 40-mile radius of Charlotte. Five more locations have since opened.

    But the decision to remain only in the Charlotte area may have thwarted this concept’s growth capability; as Couchell noted in 2008, his No. 1 competitor is a new Showmars. Whenever the company opens a restaurant within five miles of an existing store, business initially drops 5–10 percent at the older store, Couchell said.

    Baja Sol

    Originally featured: November 2008 • Then: 11 units • Now: 12 units

    After purchasing the Minnesota-based Baja Sol chain in 2006, Bridget Sutton had plans to turn the family-friendly fresh-Mex concept into a national success. In 2008, the brand was poised to grow beyond its Twin Cities roots. That year, two new restaurants were slated to open in Chicago and Minnesota, and a dozen more stores were under development in existing markets and San Diego.

    So far, though, growth outside its home market has failed to take off. Baja Sol has 10 corporate locations and two franchise locations, all of which are located in Minnesota. Sutton, meanwhile, is no longer with the company.

    Love Café

    Originally featured: June 2009 • Then: 7 units • Now: 4 units

    Warren Brown’s Love Café, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is built around Brown’s passion for cakes. After dropping his career as an attorney in 2000, Brown tried his luck with baking and, before long, had become an overnight success, with appearances on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “The Today Show.”

    But, just as Brown had started writing his second book and opened his seventh Love Café location, the recession hit. Today, after closing three locations in the last five years, Brown remains optimistic and recently announced the release of his fourth cookbook.

    House of Bread Bakery Cafe

    Originally featured: September 2010 • Then: 7 units • Now: 9 units

    The House of Bread Bakery Cafe has had its fair share of ups and downs in the past decade. The California-based brand grew to 10 locations between 1996 and 2003, but a low-carb craze in the late 2000s drove sales down and ultimately led to the closing of three stores.

    Founder Sheila McCann was optimistic in 2010 and spoke of changes to the brand’s design and menu. Since then, House of Bread has opened two new stores and seems to be getting its bearings once again.

    Teriyaki Experience

    Originally featured: March 2011 • Then: 135 units • Now: 134 units

    In 2011, Teriyaki Experience believed it was entering the U.S. quick-service market at the perfect time. The brand had more than 100 international locations, and president Nick Veloce thought U.S. food-court consumers were ready for a healthier, flavorful alternative to traditional American fast food. Eight U.S. units were open at the time, with 15 more set to open in the coming year.

    But while the brand has continued to grow abroad, it has stalled in the States. Today, Teriyaki Experience has only two U.S. stores.