Buena Papa French Fry Bar Review from Shark Tank: A Delicious Deep-Dive

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The buzz around Buena Papa French Fry Bar has grown substantially since its founders, Johanna and James Windon, secured visibility by taking their concept to the competitive arena of ‘Shark Tank’ during Season 15. Situated in the heart of Raleigh, North Carolina, Buena Papa is not just another culinary spot; it’s a unique establishment that has creatively found a niche within America’s beloved snack segment. The company’s fast rise to fame can be largely attributed to its innovative approach to offering a staple comfort food – French fries – with a twist that has garnered a loyal customer base.

A visit to Buena Papa is more than just about indulging in crispy, golden fries; it’s a culinary journey that showcases a fusion of traditional American flavors with Latin-American flair. The founders’ story is as flavorful as their menu, starting a French fry business that pivoted from a cleaning service disrupted by market changes. With a menu boasting various toppings and signature dishes that turn the humble French fry into a gourmet experience, Buena Papa stands as a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit seen consistently on ‘Shark Tank’.

Key Takeaways

  • Buena Papa French Fry Bar successfully presented their gourmet fry concept on “Shark Tank.”
  • The founders’ innovative approach combines comfort food with Latin-American influences.
  • Strategic business expansion and effective customer engagement have propelled its growth.

Founders’ Story and Inspiration


The inception of Buena Papa French Fry Bar traces back to the passion and dynamism of its founders, Johanna and James Windon. Their journey is marked by a bold pivot from running a cleaning business to launching a culinary venture that intertwines Colombian flavors with a universally loved dish.

Background of Buena Papa Fry Bar

Johanna and James Windon, the entrepreneurial couple behind Buena Papa Fry Bar, sought to create a food concept that celebrated Colombian cuisine and culture. Their restaurant is a homage to the vibrant flavors of Colombia, manifested through a staple food item—the French fry. Infusing traditional Colombian dishes like Bandeja Paisa into their menu, they’ve reimagined how French fries are experienced.

Transition from Cleaning to Cooking

The pandemic caused disruptions in various sectors, including the Windons’ cleaning business. This challenge led them to a transition, turning their focus to cooking. They utilized their Colombian roots to introduce a new culinary venture, aiming to bring a slice of Colombian culture to the table. As they participated in “Shark Tank,” the sharks were presented with this unique blend of passion, resilience, and flavorful offerings that Buena Papa Fry Bar stands for.

Menu Highlights and Favorite Toppings


Buena Papa French Fry Bar has become renowned for its gourmet French fries, which are accentuated by an impressive selection of premium toppings. From classic comfort flavors to innovative combinations, their menu caters to a diverse array of tastes.

Signature Offerings

Buena Papa’s menu boasts a variety of loaded fries that are more than just a side dish. They feature El Americano, which is their take on the classic American loaded fries, El Mexicano that offers a zesty taste with ingredients like chorizo, and El Cubano which brings the flavors of a Cuban sandwich to their crispy fries. Each signature dish is carefully crafted to evoke the essence of its namesake culture.

Picking the Perfect Topping

Customers can customize their fries with a wide range of premium toppings. For protein lovers, options like succulent pork belly and spicy chorizo elevate the fries to a hearty meal. Vegetarians and vegans aren’t left out, as there are numerous vegan options that ensure everyone can enjoy their creations. Topping choices range from savory to sweet and from simple to exotic, ensuring a gastronomic adventure for all palates.

Business Model and Expansion


Buena Papa French Fry Bar adapted to an ever-changing market and embraced new growth strategies as they journeyed from a Shark Tank pitch to potentially becoming a household name. They began with crafting unique menu offerings, and have since put a spotlight on franchising opportunities, aiming for a nationwide presence.

Adapting to the Pandemic

Amid the pandemic, Buena Papa Fry Bar demonstrated resilience by adjusting its business operations to fit the new climate. Starting as a pop-up in Durham, North Carolina, they responded to the situation with strategic flexibility, which has been instrumental in their continued success.

Franchising Opportunities

After their appearance on Shark Tank, there was a significant surge in interest from potential franchisees. This led to Buena Papa Fry Bar announcing a shift with a new franchise focus, intended to optimize franchise inquiries and growth. The brand has focused on clear franchising strategies to maintain quality while scaling its operations effectively.

Plans for Nationwide Reach

Their vision doesn’t just stop within their origins in Florida and North Carolina. Buena Papa French Fry Bar is now aiming for a nationwide expansion, intending to bring their Latin-American flavors merged with American cuisine across various states. Their expansion efforts are compounded by strategic partnerships and careful consideration of sales and margins to ensure sustainable growth.

Social Media and Customer Interaction

After appearing on Shark Tank, Buena Papa French Fry Bar has effectively utilized social media to connect with customers and cultivate a vibrant community around their brand.

Leveraging Online Platforms

Buena Papa French Fry Bar has embraced several online platforms, ensuring their delicious offerings remain a topic of conversation. With a notable presence on Instagram and TikTok, the brand has successfully tapped into visual social media’s power to showcase their delectable fries. They’ve seen significant engagement, with the “Buena Papa Fry Bar review” tag amassing over five million views on TikTok. Their Instagram followers exceed 12,000, evidence that customers appreciate frequent updates and mouth-watering visuals.

  • Facebook and Instagram are utilized for promotions and customer interactions.
  • TikTok houses creative and viral content that highlights their menu and experience.
  • Collaborations with influencers have further widened their reach.

Building a Loyal Customer Base

Customer service is a cornerstone of Buena Papa’s approach to community engagement. They engage with customers via reviews on platforms like Yelp, where the feedback helps guide continuous improvement. Their website is another touchpoint for service, offering an easy navigation experience for viewers interested in the menu or franchise opportunities.

  • Strong community ties are apparent, with local partnerships such as the ones with The Carolina Hurricanes and Morgan Street Food Hall.
  • Sales initiatives on social media platforms, like special promotions and shout-outs, ensure a steady stream of customer interest and return visits.