For many quick-service restaurants, french fries are low on the innovation priority list, one of multiple side options that accompany the all-important main dish. But for Scott Nelowet, CEO and founder of French Fry Heaven, french fries are the main event, a menu item with endless possibilities.
French Fry Heaven, which first opened its doors in 2010, combines classic and sweet potato fries with more than 50 different toppings that satisfy customers’ wide range of preferences. For example, the leading Angel option (classic fries) tastes like a loaded baked potato, while the top Saint option (sweet potato fries) is similar to a funnel cake.
“Our French Quarter, which is a Cajun fry with remoulade sauce, is probably my favorite,” Nelowet says. “I put the dill pepper sauce on there, which is the hottest sauce in the world. It just brings the burn up a notch or two.”
Nelowet says the quick serve encourages customers to branch out and find new flavors that they may enjoy. “A lot of folks, teenagers especially, are saying, ‘I’m not having sweet potato fries, I don’t like those,’” he says. “And then they have either the Festival or the Jennifer, which tastes exactly like pumpkin pie, and they’re converts.”
Teenagers and college students are two of French Fry Heaven’s strongest customer demographics. Nelowet says they enjoy being able to get a snack quick and on the go, whether it’s late at night or while studying for exams. He hopes to expand the concept to college campuses around the U.S.
The brand’s emphasis on healthy, natural products also attracts customers, Nelowet says.
“Ninety-five percent of our menu is actually vegetarian, and all of our stuff is allergen free,” he says. “Our sauces start out with the zero trans fat base, we use the lowest trans fat we can get out there. There are no MSGs, no GMOs, so it’s the healthiest a fry is every going to get.”
Because French Fry Heaven attracts individuals from all demographics, shopping malls have become interested in the brand. Nelowet says its mall kiosk location has helped increase foot traffic by 13 percent in surrounding stores.
He adds that much of French Fry Heaven’s success stems from its marketing team. The team has designed a creative, edgy brand image and has continually excelled at engaging consumers on social media. Nelowet recently developed an iPhone game app that aims to engage younger consumers. He hopes the 50-level game will help consumers better understand the brand and varieties of fry recipes, while also encouraging customers to visit the stores. Gamers choose a character and create different varieties of fries on each level. As an incentive to complete the game, French Fry Heaven will give a free fry to anyone who masters the app.
Nelowet believes the game sets French Fry Heaven apart from competitors. “A lot of folks are really obsessed with social media, the Internet, and having a website,” he says. “That’s all great, but that’s all been done.”
French Fry Heaven has three stores in operation, with plans to open 10 franchises in the next few months. Nelowet says the goal is to eventually expand internationally.
“We get so much interest internationally because it’s simple, it’s easy to transport,” Nelowet says. “We’re really looking forward to it.”
By Marlee Murphy