French Fry Heaven

August 9, 2014 1 comment Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article talks with Scott Nelowet of French Fry Heaven.

Garlic Parmesan Fries. Photo courtesy French Fry Heaven.

7. What can you recommend to someone looking for something a little different?

For people who like a little spice in their diet I’d recommend the ChaCha, which is both sweet and spicy. It starts with a sweet potato fry that we toss in cinnamon and sugar. Then we add a red chili sauce. To the classic ChaCha I’d add our ghost pepper salt, which is the hottest salt in the world. That’s going to be a flavor combination that’ll wake anyone up! The ChaCha itself is spicy but won’t burn your mouth out. I’d put it at about a 7 out of 10 on the heat scale when thinking of spicy cuisines. Ghost peppers on their own are very, very hot. We use ghost peppers to infuse a salt. With the salt you get a spicy kick without the burn at the end. So, the salt is a nice way to make the ChaCha a little spicier, without being too crazy.      

Another great option is the Thanksgiving. We get a lot of teenagers, especially, who either don’t like sweet potato fries, or haven’t tried them. For these people we suggest they give one fry a chance, to see what they think. The Thanksgiving is like a piece of sweet potato pie. For many people, they’re used to sweet potato fries being done just like a normal french fry - they’re not used to them being done dessert style. When they taste the Thanksgiving they’re blown away because it’s done in a way they’ve never seen before.

8. Overall, what’s the most popular fry you serve?

It’s the simple classics that are the biggest sellers - straight up fries with ketchup, barbecue sauce and ranch dressing - those sorts of things. A lot of people just love fries and we serve a great, classic fry. For people who want to stick with what they know and love we’ll often suggest a slight modification. For example, if you want barbecue sauce you can add our Bonfire Salt, which has a really smoky taste. It takes the barbecue and makes it taste like it just came off the campfire. It takes something familiar and adds a little extra to it.

Love - Fries with ketchup. Photo courtesy French Fry Heaven.

9. Are there regional differences in what people like for toppings?

The Poutines are quite regional. They’re based on a popular style of Canadian fry made with brown gravy and loads of cheese. They tend to be a real hit or a miss, depending on the area of the country. In the North and Southeast people are attracted to the brown gravy of the Poutines but in the Southwest people don’t get the attraction of brown gravy nearly as much.

Another interesting regional aspect has to do with the fact that we have very little meat on the menu. To keep our fries as healthy as possible and to have them appeal to a wide variety of people we make the fries vegetarian as often as we can. That’s why our bacon bits are made with soy, for example. They taste like bacon, but they’re not. Well, in the Southwest they love their meat and want to see it on the menu. We came up with a recipe that combines the Poutine with our Arizona spice, which is a chili based spice, and the Bonfire Salt. It tastes just like brisket, even though it doesn’t contain meat, and it’s a huge hit in the Southwest.

Canadian - i.e. Poutine. Photo courtesy French Fry Heaven.

10. Do you get a lot of topping requests from your customers?

All the time! Every 3 months we introduce a set of new flavors on a trial basis to see what people think. A lot of these come from our franchisees or our customers. The Baked Tater came from a suggestion we received. On our website we have this growing secret menu which our customers have put together by combining flavors that are on the standard menu into unique offerings. A lot of what we see in terms of regional favorites come from the secret menu. You can access the secret menu by signing into the Happy Souls section of our website.

11. Who’s your audience?

Everyone who loves fries! It’s one of the most universal foods out there. For students, that goes double! Every poll done puts pizza and french fries at the top of the list for most favorite food on campus. So we start with a universal food that everyone likes and we cook it in a way that makes it as healthy as possible. From there we have a few different kinds of customers. The first is anyone who’s been to Europe. When they see our stands it brings them back to wherever they were and the style of french fry served in Europe. Our second type of customer is the person who likes to try something new. We offer something that’s unique in that there aren’t a lot of fry stands out there. And then we offer our fries in a way that’s just totally different from what anyone else is doing. The third type of customer is the person who’s looking for fries and loves the idea of gourmet fries. These people are the ones who are specifically coming to French Fry Heaven to get some unusual fries.

12. How did you come up with the name French Fry Heaven?

We knew we were going to be selling french fries. We we looking around for a good name and wanted something that would work well into the future. The first name we came up with was French Fry Paradise. It had a beachy feel to it, which was good and bad. In the end we kept associating fries with sand and they didn’t go well together. My wife then came up with the idea of French Fry Heaven. That allowed us to play with the idea of Saints and Angels for our different types of fries. We loved the flexibility and opportunities we had with French Fry Heaven. The one thing we worried about was whether or not we would get boxed in with the name. We do a lot of charitable service and want a good, wholesome image for our brand, but we also like to be a little irreverent at times and have some fun. We didn’t want to get into a position where having fun was taken the wrong way and upset people. To make sure our name would be viewed in the way we wanted I went to a few evangelical groups and sat down with them to find out what they thought of us using the name French Fry Heaven. I showed them our menu and some of the ideas we had to see if there was anything that bothered them. What we heard repeatedly was that our approach was positive and fun and didn’t bother anyone. I did the same thing with various other religious groups to make sure we weren’t offending anyone and the feedback was the same. There were a few minor tweaks we made but we didn’t encounter any major concerns. We thought the name was catchy and like the flexibility it gives us.

13. Your mission statement says that you want to make “a significant impact on the world.” What do you mean by that?

That refers to the charitable aspect of French Fry Heaven. We build our charitable giving into the ad funds because typically franchisees send money for us to do advertising for them. Instead, we want them to take those funds and do something locally in their own communities. We want people getting out there making an impact - that’s why we require that they put in time or give out food. It can’t be just about cutting a check. It’s up to the local franchisee to determine what works best for them. The charitable work of our franchisees is one part. The other part is that everyone we hire has to have a charitable service background. I think it makes them good, warm people. I think that food service has a unique opportunity to bring happiness into people’s lives. You can be having a crappy day when you come into French Fry Heaven and we have an opportunity to serve you something that’s going to put a smile on your face and make your day a little brighter. When you’re feeling better you’re going to have a more positive impact on all the people around you. It’s a small thing but it’s something we can do over and over with a positive result.

14. What was Fries Across America?

Oh man! When the recession hit a lot of people were down and I’d hear over and over that nothing could be done until the recession was over or until some politician did something to fix things. I’m an entrepreneur and in my view it’s everyday people who do things to get things going and we shouldn’t wait around for events or politicians to make things happen. I’d just bought this food truck and came up with the idea of driving across America, serving fries and talking to people about entrepreneurship and encouraging them to take control of their own lives. I wanted to spread the message of getting out and doing something and not waiting around for someone else to fix things. I started in Houston and did talks in Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, Indianapolis, Louisville, Atlanta and here in Jacksonville. We got some great crowds out, which I appreciated, but the thing I liked the most was the feedback I got afterwards from people who wrote to tell me that they’d decided to take some action and make a change or open a business. That really made the whole thing fun.

15. Do you have a food truck now?

Yes. It’s mostly used for special events, usually with a charitable aspect to them. I’d really love to find someone who could run it full time but haven’t found the right person.

 PREV 1 2 3 4 NEXT