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I hated the first commercial break. Just ten minutes into the show, Alli and I were instant evangelists for our new favorite show: America’s Next Great Restaurant. It’s everything good from The Apprentice–entrepreneurship, hard work, and real people chasing their dreams–minus everything really bad about The Apprentice–Donald Trump’s ego, superfluous drama, & The Donald’s hair.

Photo source: Hulu

The concept is simple: “People from every walk of life will vie for the opportunity of a lifetime to see their original restaurant concept spring to life – starting with the opening of a restaurant chain in three locations – Hollywood, Minneapolis and New York City.” It’s a ramped-up business plan competition planted in the fast casual (e.g., Subway, Panera, etc.) food industry.
Be warned, this show induces stomach-rumbling, but aside from that, we see no weaknesses. So much to love, but here are our highlights:
It’s entrepreneurship at its best: Our economy desperately needs fresh ideas, and the data is clear: It’s gonna have to come from new small businesses. This show gives a glimpse into what it takes to translate a fresh idea into a viable concept. The pilot episode was an entire business school crash course. The contestants pitched their concepts and discussed pricing, differentiation, innovation, and leadership with the talented crew of judges. Speaking of which…
These are great judges: No token old British guy. No brainless celebrities. These four judges compose a savvy, experienced and inspired panel. The headliners are Bobby Flay, Food Network phenom/burger artist, and Steve Ells, the founder and CEO of our country’s undisputed top restaurant chain — Chipotle. Bobby is the chops and Steve is the genius–a tandem cowering above the likes of Abdul & Cowell.
The judges are the investors: This is the show’s most unique concept. The judges aren’t just critiquing the contestants and their concepts to conjure-up oohs and ahs. They are determining whose name is on their respective checks as the winning contestant will be funded and coached by the judges themselves. They have skin in the show.
Sure, there are probably better things to do with an hour each week than watch a TV show. You could plant a tree, read a self-help book, or knit a sweater. But, nobody plants trees at night or actually helps themselves after reading self-help books. And, you can knit your heart out while still watching the show.
To boot, this isn’t Skating With The Stars. It’s Hollywood at its best–an educational and inspirational delight. Like The Social Network, I finished watching compelled to create. To innovate my own restaurant concept (..and I do have a great concept). If I were Bobby Flay, I would be high on Joseph Galluzzi and his grandma’s meatball recipe. Maybe I’m going out on a limb (can you really build a restaurant around a meatball?), but watch for yourself and convince me why you wouldn’t invest in Joe. Like the show and the judges; he’s the real deal.
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