Celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn wants to bring customers the good stuff. The former Top Chef contestant is prepared to franchise his family’s fast-casual burger concept, Good Stuff Eatery.

Opened in July 2008 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., the original Good Stuff Eatery took about a year to brand and construct, Mendelsohn says, because franchising was always the plan. Since then, two additional company locations have opened, one each in Arlington, Virginia’s downtown Crystal City and in D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood.

Mendelsohn says starting in D.C. was pivotal to his national franchising plans.

“You sell people on the brand and the feel and the food. They spend four to six months here, and they go back to their respective cities,” he says. “It’s great because they take the experience that they had in D.C. with them—so it literally gave us national recognition.”

That experience revolves around a fast-casual concept that capitalizes on locally sourced ingredients. Each Good Stuff Eatery serves up the brand’s signature Farmhouse Burger, available in Farmhouse Cheese and Farmhouse Bacon Cheese variations. Ten original creations are also on the menu, including the Prez Obama Burger, made with Applewood-smoked bacon, onion marmalade, Roquefort cheese, and horseradish mayo.

Good Stuff balances its farm-raised beef burger selection with hand-cut fries, four wedge salads, and hand-spun milkshakes. The high-quality food, Mendelsohn says, will be one of the biggest draws for franchisees.

“Everything about the menu and the concept invokes family and comfort and locality,” he says. “If we maintain that, I think it’ll be a home run.”

A fourth corporate location is slated to open in Philadelphia and could be the linchpin to attracting experienced franchisees interested in opening multiple units in target regions, Mendelsohn says.

“A franchisee won’t really pay attention to you unless you have a minimum of five stores,” he says, adding that being on Top Chef and other shows has helped with national recognition, but also heightened expectations.

Negotiations are underway for a location in Chicago, and Mendelsohn says that may be the brand’s first franchise. He says the ideal franchisee needs more than money in the bank, though.

“You have to come with a certain type of mentality that meshes with our corporate model,” he says. “As owners, we’re not willing to take any less. You have to work with us in our D.C. location and identify well with what our concept is.”

Mendelsohn, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, adds that every Good Stuff Eatery location will employ at least one culinary school graduate, either in a traditional or managerial role.

As for how many franchise locations Mendelsohn has in mind, he says there’s no set number yet.

“Who knows? You’ve just got to take it day by day,” he says. “I can’t predict the future, but we want to be a huge brand to be reckoned with.”

Big plans are also in the works for We, the Pizza, Mendelsohn’s Italian-American pizza concept with one location on Pennsylvania Avenue. A second location in Crystal City, Virginia, right next to Good Stuff Eatery, is slated to open soon, and franchising is likely. 

By Tamara Omazic

Burgers, Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Fast Casual, News, Good Stuff Eatery