Bowl of Heaven started with an idea, sketched out on a napkin, for a whole new type of fast-casual chain that would bring what co-founder Dan McCormick calls "the world's healthiest meals" to the masses.
Its main ingredients? Acai, maqui berry, cili, gac and other exotic, nutritionally dense super fruits. Staff freeze these ingredients and blend them with apple juice, almond milk or coconut milk and serve the finished product in bowls with toppings and mix-ins like organic granola, conventional fruits, antioxidant-rich dark chocolate, ginger, natural peanut butter and chia-based protein powder. All menu items are dairy-free, contain no added refined sugar and weigh in at 500 calories or less.
McCormick, a veteran of the nutrition/anti-aging/weight-loss industry, discovered acai bowls while visiting family in Hawaii. "Before long we were making plans to launch an acai (pronounced ah-sah-EE) bowl concept here in Southern California," he says "Partnering with my son-in-law, Brandon Beazer, we opened our first unit in 2010 in Rancho Santa Margarita."
Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, each unit averages 1,000 to 1,400 square feet. In addition to acai bowls and smoothies, newer items on the menu include fresh fruit and vegetable juices. The chain's signature "MAQ7" juice, a blend of seven types of super fruits used as the base of all acai bowls, is also available for purchase by the bottle.
Unlike frozen yogurt, the bowls are positioned as meal replacement options. Staff make each bowl to order, and service times average three minutes. To reduce wait times, a new app lets customers place orders from mobile devices and indicate where and when they'd like to pick up.
McCormick says the concept's uniqueness, relatively low cost of entry, simple operations and appeal to a growing demographic of nutrition-aware consumers bodes well for its future.
The company operates units in La Verne, Calif.; Eagle, Idaho; and Elko, Nev. A food truck cruises the Rancho Santa Margarita market, and a third California store will open in Newport Beach this month. The company has sold five franchises, with "many others pending," McCormick says. He hopes to have 6 to 10 stores operating and another 20 to 30 on the books by the end of 2014.
"Our goal is to find professional multiunit operators who see the big picture and want to get in early," he says. "There aren't many new things in franchising, and this is definitely new. We're excited to bring it to the world."