Trew Quackenbush and Corey Ward, the proprietors of Tom and Chee, present their gourmet grilled cheese businesses in the Cincinnati area to the Sharks in episode 424. After cooking in almost every corner of the United States, Quackenbush decided to settle down in Cincinnati. For Ward, the son of an ice cream store owner, starting a business was a childhood dream come true.
Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches were the “cheftrepreneur” duo’s inspiration for their new casual dining business. A grilled cheese donut is the most incredible of their creations, available at five different locations. They hoped to expand their grilled cheese empire with the Sharks’ help.
Trew and Corey asked for $600k in the Shark Tank for a 10% stake in Tom and Chee. They offered grilled cheese donuts to the sharks while they recounted their narrative. They said their corporate store generated $1.5 million in sales in a year. Their first franchise generated over $100,000 in a month. Those were numerals that the Sharks were fond of.
Barbara made an instant offer of $300,000 for 15% of the business. Daymond refused to invest in the grilled cheese business because he didn’t want to be in it. Kevin and Robert each decided to contribute $100,000 if Mark pitched in with $100,000. When they expressed their interest, Mark decided to join Barbara in a joint venture for $300,000, leaving Robert and Kevin out of the picture.
Trew and Cory already had a potential franchisee interested in Dallas. Therefore, Mark decided to leave that city and invest in Texas. Barbara was interested in acquiring the New York franchise. No matter the case, it was a win-win situation for Trew and Cory.
Tom and Chee’s business has boomed since their partnership with Mark and Barbara. There have been over 9,000 requests for franchises since their original air date. They have launched new outlets across the country.
Tom and Chee’s corporate offices in Cincinnati see the most business. Layoffs in marketing, catering, and training were made in 2014 to better position the business for future growth. Even though it had recently stated it would be laying off workers, the company claimed it would be opening 13 new franchises across the Midwest and South in states including Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Tennessee. The company planned to open 30 new outlets in the future.
They had earned over $14 million in sales after appearing on Shark Tank. According to them, Barbara played a key role in the business boost. They had 19 eateries, but they planned to expand globally.
The sudden growth took a toll on the young business. Sadly, their growth was too rapid, and the young organization didn’t have the right foundations in place. Moreover, many of its franchises had no prior expertise in the food service industry. Therefore, the bank took the company’s assets.
Gold Star Chili parent company GSR purchased the business assets from the bank in October, 2017 for an undisclosed sum. Trew Quackenbush and Corey Ward were still working there when the company was acquired. Trew was in charge of the menus, while Corey was in charge of marketing. Trew has since taught culinary arts at a high school in the Cincinnati region and worked as a freelance chef. Corey is still employed with the firm.
GSR concluded that the franchise operation was expanding far too rapidly without the necessary infrastructure in place. Instead of maintaining the 35 stores operational, the company limited its business to 23 stores.
GSR planned to begin expanding its network of locations in 2020. Instead of grilled cheese, they started offering melts that allow for more creative ordering alternatives. Using ovens to prepare the chocolate melts reduced the prep time from 6-7 minutes to 90 seconds. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 outbreak halted the expansion plans.
Only seven locations were active in 2021, with several closing due to the pandemic. Three new stores were opened in Cincinnati, Oklahoma City, and Pittsburgh in June 2021. A franchise store in Atlanta closed its doors in January of 2022.
Our Review of Tom and Chee
Tom and Chee has something for everyone. One of the highlights of this restaurant is a grilled cheese sandwich. Customers can choose from various toppings. You can make your pizza from scratch using your ingredients.
You can also try one of their recommended combinations. Add some delicious potato chips to your crunchy grilled cheese. And tada! There you have a delicious meal.
A grilled cheese restaurant would be incomplete without one of the best tomato soups. Considering that, they have three variations of tomato soup at Tom and Chee. They also have grilled cheese doughnuts.
You can also try Italian. Their famous salad has balsamic vinaigrette dressing, mozzarella, and a smattering of ham, salami, pepperoni, onions, and banana peppers. If you are a fan of cheese blended with vegetables, Italian sandwiches will become your favorite instantly.
Tom & Chee now offers tater tots as an additional item on their menu. Tots come in three flavors – Garlic, Chive Tots, and Cheese. We assure you, you won’t be able to get enough of them.
The most popular sandwich on the menu is the Chicken Bacon Ranch. It has bacon, cheddar, Roma tomatoes, chicken, and the highlight of the dish – ranch. They are so good that you would want to order them again and again.
Another dish that might interest you is the kickin’ tots seasoned with a spicy sauce. This dish has a lot of oomph! Even if you are a spice squeamish, you will love this recipe.
One of their specialties is Grilled Cheese Donuts. It is a glazed donut stuffed with cheddar cheese. You should give it a whirl if you haven’t had it already. It’s a strange-sounding concept, yet it works.
Last but not least, S’more Doughnuts. This savory dish includes chocolate, graham cracker, and marshmallow mascarpone cheese. It’s a baked donut with a glazed exterior. You will be surprised to know that it’s not too sugary. It’s a great treat to share with your friends and family after those delicious melted cheeses.
- Wide variety of menu
- Reasonable prices
- Scrumptious food
- Offers takeout
- Employees complain of favoritism
- Uncertain future of the company
- Poor customer service
Who is it Best For?
Tom and Chee is the best choice for those foodies who love to have a unique blend of recipes. If you are a grilled cheese fan, you will love to dine in this restaurant. The addition of chess in almost every dish is cherry on the top that serves all the cheese-lovers out there!
Are There Any Alternatives?
Newk’s Eatery is one of the best alternatives to Tom and Chee. They offer an extensive menu that serves both vegans and meat-lovers alike. The food is made to perfection in hygienic surroundings and is sold at a reasonable price that attracts customers.
Our Final Thoughts
Tom and Chee is a grilled cheese venture that earned its name and fame after appearing on Shark Tank. It offers cheesy delights and unique sweet bites that every customer enjoys!