Pork & Mindy’s, a once-promising fast casual from Kevin Corsello and Food Network star Jeff Mauro, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on November 5 in the Northern District Illinois United States Bankruptcy Court. According to The Chicago Tribune, it appears all locations have closed in what’s typically a liquidation process.
The brand, founded in the Windy City’s Bucktown area in January 2016, listed liabilities between $1 to $10 million with an estimated 50 to 99 creditors. The Chicago Bears, which teamed with Pork & Mindy’s to sell its candied bacon in 2017 during NFL games, was listed as one of the top creditors.
The fast casual’s ambitions were high as early as this year, when it expanded to multiple food halls and Denver and Minneapolis. The chain then struck a deal in March to bring 28 outlets to Chicago-area Mariano’s grocery stores.
Mariano’s released a statement saying, “Mariano’s is no longer offering Pork & Mindy’s products as Pork & Mindy’s has filed for relief under the Bankruptcy Code." The supermarket chain is replacing the fast casual with its own restaurant brand labeled Mariano’s Smokehouse.
Pork & Mindy’s started with global goals and hopes to hit 30 locations by 2020. Mauro and Harvard Business School graduate Corsello, who runs private investment firm Corsello Capital Regional Center LLC, met through a local bike shop in Chicago. Three years after founding, the chain had four locations, including a spot in Minneapolis’s Elevate Food Hall. It had designs to debut in seven new markets that year alone.
Corsello developed the concept’s idea from barbecue competitions he entered with friends in 2005—on a team called Pork & Mindy’s (a satirical ode to the TV series Mork & Mindy). The brand linked early with food management giant Compass Group to plan growth through a blend of corporate, licensed units with Compass, and via food halls.
Also in March, Pork & Mindy’s announced plans for two new stand-alone restaurants in the Chicago area, including one in Mauro’s hometown of Elmwood park. Menu highlights include Sangwiches stacked with smoked meats, tater-tot Tottys loaded with toppings, choose-your-own Meat Flights, veggie-laden Pit Bowls, salads, ‘Nado milkshakes, and the restaurant’s well-known Pig Candy.
Mauro, the Season 7 winner of the “Food Network Star,” and host of “Sandwich King,” and “The Kitchen,” was not involved in the restaurant’s day-to-day operations, according to Eater.
According to the publication, the Chapter 7 filing came as a shock. He heard about it before traveling to Western Asia recently to cook for American military personnel stationed overseas. Mauro told Eater the fast casual’s name might survive, but it wasn’t likely.
After Pork & Mindy’s closed its original Bucktown restaurant in August, Mauro began concentrating more on TV, Eater added. He said the Mariano’s expansion happened too fast and “got out of control too quickly.”
Pork & Mindy’s was a member of QSR’s 40/40 List in 2019. Corsello told QSR then, “We’ve been honing the operations, the menu, the supply chain, and logistics for the brand, so this is the time that we’re really ready to scale.” He added that various firms and angel investors had approached the company, but they preferred to fund and grow organically.
In addition to smoked meats and a line of barbecue sauces, Pork & Mindy’s was known for its music and art. It announced a partnership in May 2018 with renowned disc jockey and record producer Paul Oakenfold, who became an equity partner as well as the brand’s official music curator. Pork & Mindy’s hosted back-of-house sessions with local musicians since day one.