Tom and Chee before Shark Tank
Tom and Chee was founded by Drew Quackenbush and Corey Ward in the winter of 2009 after Corey had an idea to open up a grilled cheese and tomato soup shop for the kid at heart. Drew and Corey didn’t have enough money to open a restaurant, a food truck, or even a food cart at the time. They did, however, have enough money for a tent and griddle so they set up outside an ice skating ring in Cincinnati, Ohio despite being warned by the local city that no one has ever profited from this area. Although they left the first day with only $35, they were assured to make their dreams come true so they continued their idea and returned the following summer as well. 364 days after setting up their tent, they had earned enough money to open a store.
After several months and a lot of work from Drew and Corey, Tom and Chee officially opened their first store in Cincinnati and the response was incredible. People would wait over an hour and a half just to come up to order because of the unique food options offered by Tom and Chee such as the grilled cheese donut. Seeing this growing restaurant and their creativity, a local mall proposed Drew and Corey a second location with an offer they could not refuse. Tom and Chee soon got tons of calls from the local media who wanted to interview them including Adam Richmond from Man vs Food. Exposure from Adam’s show and many other outlets led to a heavy increase in sales for their two stores. Of the many customers who waited in these long lines, one was the Tinsley family from Louisville, Kentucky who loved their idea and wanted to own a franchise. With some help, Drew, Corey, and the Tinsley family were able to open their first franchise in Kentucky. Drew and Corey wanted to expand their franchising idea and knew they needed an investment to do it. After numerous emails to the producers, they got a response from Shark Tank informing them that they would be on the show!
Tom and Chee’s Pitch on Shark Tank
Drew and Corey entered the Shark Tank in season four seeking $600,000 for a 10% stake in the company. They began the pitch by how they got their company started and the popularity of their unique food items such as the grilled cheese donut. Although hesitant at first, each of the sharks took a bite into this famous donut and Robert admitted that it tasted pretty good. Mark wanted to know more about their food so they described their basic sandwiches such as barbeque bacon and how it was inexpensive for the Cincinnati area. Kevin was very picky about their food and prices’, immediately asking “is crap the brand?” Drew was quick to defend their restaurant and explain their mission of offering people affordable food in this economy. Barbara asked for their sales and Drew stated they grossed $1,500,000. This shocked all of the sharks at it wasn’t common to see businesses with over $1,000,000 in sales during season four. Corey than explained the franchise costs and how much money came back to them from the franchisees.
Barbara was immediately impressed from their sales and customer attraction stories so she offered them $300,000 for 15% if another shark would come in with her since they needed the full $600,000. Daymond didn’t feel the concept was right for him as he believes in healthy products so he went out. Kevin was on the fence as he was also in love with the numbers, but was hesitant on how such an idea was so successful. He decided to throw $100,000 in for 5% to be a part of the deal and Robert also added $100,000 for 5%. They still needed $100,000 to reach $600,000 and Mark was the only one left. He immediately stated he would not do $100,000 as it would not be worth the time, but that he would put up $300,000 for 15% and go in with Barbara for a total of $600,000 for 30%. He also wanted franchise rights to the state of Texas and Barbara immediately added she wanted rights to the state of New York. Kevin and Robert were not willing to compete with those offers so they both went out. Drew and Corey, wanting to partner with Barbara and Mark even before the pitch, took their offer. Both left the tank very excited having gotten the sharks they wanted.
Tom and Chee Recent Update
As always before closing a deal, due diligence process must take place where Barbara and Mark would do more research about the business to confirm they want to close the deal. After Mark and Barbara sent representatives to see their stores, Mark felt it would be better if all the stores were corporate owned rather than franchising. However, Corey and Drew didn’t want to do this, as that was not what they pitched and they knew that $600,000 would not be enough to do so. Knowing they were uninterested in his idea, Mark decided not to close his end of the deal. Barbara, however, was still in love with Drew and Corey and informed them that she would make a new deal with them although the amount was never disclosed. The shark tank effect soon kicked in and Tom and Chee began to expand.
Tom and Chee had gotten over 25,000 franchise requests since airing on Shark Tank two years ago. Because of their heavy success, the mayor on Cincinnati set aside a special day called “Tom and Chee Day” in Cincinnati as a five year anniversary of when they started in their tent. Barbara has helped Tom and Chee find good locations for their new franchisees because of her background in real estate. They have needed this help as they have opened over 25 stores across the U.S. and have over 150 contracts currently in progress. They have updated their stores from menus written on chalkboards to stores with bright and colorful interiors that would catch anyone’s eye. Their stores have grossed over $14,000,000 since airing on the show and this number continues to grow as more stores open.
Tom and Chee is a great example of an amazing American success story. Starting with only $2,400, a tent, and a griddle, they have grown to a national brand that will have hundreds of locations across the United States. Drew and Corey have shown that a great idea tied with persistence and dedication can lead you to becoming successful entrepreneurs.