Tyler Florence Chats About the New Series, Food Court Wars

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, July 5th, 2013

Tyler Florence Chats About the New Series, Food Court WarsOn Food Network’s new series, Food Court Wars, two teams of aspiring food entrepreneurs face-off for a chance to win their own food court restaurant entirely rent-free for one year. On each episode, the teams have an opportunity to open a brand-new eatery in their local mall, test their concept, market their brand and run the outlet for a full day for hungry shoppers. The team whose restaurant makes the most profit wins the space. Host Tyler Florence helps the teams through their challenges, offering up his advice on how to make their concept a success. FN Dish recently caught up with Tyler to chat about the new show.

Catch the season premiere of Food Court Wars on Sunday, July 7 at 10pm/9c to see who wins their dream prize.

What do you think makes mall food courts so appealing or unappealing? Do you think they’re due for an update?

TF: I don’t want anybody to think I have some grandiose opinion about food courts and what they serve. I see it just like everybody sees it — it needs to be fixed — and that’s why I love the show. What we did with The Great Food Truck Race is we actually spawned an entire new genre of restaurants. I’m not saying we invented food trucks, but we created two epic fires in the country. We’ve shown it’s doable. We’ve shown there’s a new restaurant business model that can be profitable. Young, independent entrepreneurs are adding such a new level of colorful diversity in restaurants — coast to coast, from Miami to Alaska — with wonderful mobile restaurant operations, and they’re doing it at a very, very high level. It’s so impressive to watch.

This show is not just a competition, it’s more of a vetting process of taking two independent teams that have a local point of view with local stories, and we’re going to test them to see who has the merit, the brand, the food quality and the backbone to actually succeed. It’s a three-day competition. The first day is a branding competition where we really dive into who they are as a company. The second day is a marketing event where they go out into the community and get the word out about who they are; they get a chance to interact with people. We’ve taken an empty food court kiosk and given it to them for the weekend, and they turn it into a pop-up. So they get two days to grow and expand their brand and refine their concepts, and on day 3 they open their pop-up. Whoever makes the most money wins their space rent-free for one year, plus $10,000 of operating capital, so it’s an investment. We want to make food in food courts accessible and sexy.

Could the food court be the new food truck, so to speak?

TF: It’s really hard to compete in a really traditional restaurant model. You have to raise somewhere between $2,500,000 and $4,000,000 to open up a restaurant, and then the death rate is real. Nine out of 10 restaurants close within the first 18 months, so it’s an enormous risk for people and very difficult to raise that kind of money if they don’t have a solid success rate behind them, or if they’ve never done it before. That’s what makes food trucks so interesting — the idea that a person could raise $10,000 for a truck, pass a health inspection, write a menu and buy some food, and be in business next weekend — it’s very exciting. Yet food trucks would never see the kind of foot traffic that malls get. That’s what’s so exciting about this particular genre. We did it with food trucks and now we’re taking on the American mall.

Is the mall food court an area that you could see noteworthy chefs taking over in the near future? Is it something you would consider?

TF: I absolutely do. I have a fast, casual concept at the San Francisco airport called Tyler Florence Fresh that we did $2.8 million out of last year. I have done exactly what these people are trying to do.

What helpful advice would you give the contestants on Food Court Wars?

TF: I would say to really get feedback from people. If you have a concept, you want to make sure you get enough feedback from people that you have a real brand and clarity, and you have self-awareness of what you’re doing. How good is your food? Could it be better? What exactly is your brand? Is it being communicated effectively? That’s the best advice I could ever give somebody: have self-awareness about what you’re doing.

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Comments (34)

  1. Sandy says:

    Great idea for a new show! I can't wait to see what non-traditional and non-national chain of food court eatery will win on each episode! Great idea Tyler and Food Network!

  2. r hendry says:

    This show had to be the most boring thing I have seen in a long time. New Jersey Shark Attack has tyler beat on this one……………cancel it please……………

  3. from texas says:

    I enjoyed it… I'd just like to know what happened to the original winners.

    • eclecticdeb says:

      Erika decided it wasn't a good fit. I'm glad she made that decision in time to give the opportunity to the other couple. http://www.thelocalvoice.net/oxford/?p=7337

    • zuko53 says:

      We (my wife & I) were wondering about that too. Thought it might have something to do with the IRS tagging the free yearly rent as income. If that is so, they would be in one hell of a hole even before they opened for business. Furthermore, if it is the reason, they would have been better off starting from scratch and paying the rent because it would represent a tax deduction when tax time comes around.

      • Shirley says:

        You know that is why they stopped having Extreme Makeover. The people that got the makeovers could not afford the utilities, or taxes or insurance. The IRS also wanted the taxes on the stuff they were given.

  4. amk68 says:

    I appreciate the honesty of Tyler showing up on the episode to offer the opportunity to the other couple, instead of what we've seen with the NFNS…last season's winner, Justin, just never got a show. No explanation. But the new season begins on schedule. Things happen. But the Food Network is a business, and a press release was in order.

  5. ssjp says:

    Although I'm happy the older couple ended up with the restaurant I want to know what happened to the original winners

  6. Jake Stanford says:

    Not a great show – I gave it a chance and I wanted to poke my eyes out at the end. What happened to Tyler – such a horrible host. I would have thought Guy or even Justin would be a better choice. I don't think just adapting the Food Truck plot to Food Courts is just lazy.

    FN – boo hoo – think of something more original.

  7. Annette says:

    Mary Jo's Hot Tamales is set to open August 5th. They have a Facebook page.

  8. Mamakat says:

    Ok, the show was good. I thought FN did a great job of showing the conviction and personality of both teams. I really wanted both to win. But more the older couple… This really would have been their last shot. I do want to know what happened to the first winners but it doesn't bother me that the winners couldn't fulfil the win… That happens a lot with reality shows…

    But, can we please talk about Tyler Florence for a minute. Um, yeah. My only complaint was that the camera wasn't on him more. I seriously don't remember him being such a looker!! His personality was just fine, I thought. I just thought producers were rushing him through scenes.

    I do prefer the real cooking shows to the food-related reality shows…. But I would watch this over "giving you the business" any day!

  9. Laurie says:

    I too would like to know what happened to the first couple. I googled and it said they didn't want to move. I don't believe that explanation. They had to know before where their food court would be. I think there should be three groups of challengers instead of two.

    • Kathi says:

      Agreed Laurie. As I work in business banking my first thought is that they may not have been credit-worthy for the support services they would need to operate the restaurant. "Free rent for a year" is only the beginning. Either FN did not conduct the necessary due diligence .. or this is yet another reality show with a "staged ending" each week. I liked both couples and their concepts, and was sad to read among the comments here that the tamale restaurant has already closed.

  10. saynotofoodcourtwars says:

    This show was pretty lame. Don't think it will go over well. Bring back the Food Truck War…that was much better.

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