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. Kathi says:

    The winning couple didn't make the 'cut' in the end? Where's the due diligence? Yet another lame reality concept from Food Network. Between this, Food Network Star, Restaurant Impossible and neverending reruns of Diners DriveIns and Dives, I've had enough. Goodbye, good riddance FN.

    • ChefAnneWatcher says:

      Add Chef Wanted, Worst Cooks in America, and Food Truck Wars to the list, and ITA w/ you!!!

      The ONLY show I truly enjoy watching is Chopped…

  2. shampeerreview says:

    Thought the show as ok…very disappointed to see everyone touching food – no gloves !!

  3. Jeri says:

    Obviously Food Network doesn't think there are any other chefs in the world than Tyler, Bobby, Alton, Giada and — god forbid — the Pioneer Woman. What's happened to COOKING shows FN??? Why all the silly "reality" shows? Get back to what made us fans in the first place — and soon! — or you'll find yourself without fans at all.

    Food Network … *knocks on screen* … Hello??? Are you listening???

    • zuko53 says:

      Old and tired shows. I'm sick and tired of Fieri and watching that jerk stuff himself to the gills on Man vs Food and how about that bald-headed guy who will eat anything, is elephant dung next for him.

  4. eclecticdeb says:

    After doing research, Erika decided it wasn't a good fit. Good for her to make a difficult decision. http://www.thelocalvoice.net/oxford/?p=7337

  5. tracynpt says:

    Is it just me or does Tyler have a lip full of chew?

  6. Bully says:

    Tyler shows his bias each show…..irritating. :-(

    • Shirley says:

      You know that is why I stopped watching Top Chef. I could usually pick out who was going to win either the first or second show because the host always seemed to pick and give more input to the chef that eventually won.

  7. FNrealityshowlover says:

    I like the show, in fact, I like all of the reality competition cooking shows. The one thing I am curious about is the last day's competition. Are the food court competitiors allowed to have their family, friends, and co-workers come stand in line or is it strictly mall patrons and people they marketed to the day before? What if one of the competitors has a much larger number of people coming than the other? I wonder how they make that part fair? Very curious.

  8. shoes says:

    i wonder the same as FNRealityshowlover–also, who paid for the models on this last show, to hand out the flags-and each team has tshirts, who is paying for that-how is the pricing set-whats to stop one shop from outpricing the other, and winning that way. How are the contestant just showing up and setting up shop on the marketing days-doesnt that have to be set in advance and permits required?

  9. Gary says:

    I don;' like this show. It seems totally fake. NONE (NOT ONE) of the 'food court restuarants" looks to be anywhere near an actual food court. They all look like they are at the dead end of the mall. My guess is this is another completely staged show like the recent information that MYSTERY DINERS" was a scripted show with actors. The restauarnt owners do it for publicity for their restaurants and are in on the fix.

  10. Amadrid1 says:

    I am so disappointed. Tyler told these guys at Pimiento to put their sauce on the side, that isn't Jamaican! It should be spicy, that's what Jerk Chicken should be. Trying to appeal to kids is a stupid idea for this show. If there is a McDonalds in the food court, that's where the kids will be. Trying to change the menu for a kid's palate is ridiculous. Tyler you're show is a bust

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