US Fries Opens Saturday With Free Food. Will They Thrive?

By Adam Lehrman
September 12, 2014

This is an opinion piece, so don't hate. But, do feel free to leave some feedback.

When news broke months ago that US Fries, a new concept planned to launch in Tucson on 4th Avenue this Saturday (with free food), would open, I was pretty excited. After all, I do love french fries. On top of that, I really like poutine, which is what the whole US Fries concept is based around.

But, can a french fry-based concept make it to expansion? I'm a huge proponent of "going for it" and I'm totally a sucker for gimmicky things, but as someone who pays obsessively close attention to mass market behavior, I wonder. Here's why:

  • Not easily consumed on the go. For a food item to catch on en masse - and I mean in the sense that exponential growth will occur that will facilitate rapid expansion - it has to be simple to eat. Any sort of drink meets this requirement. Burritos, tacos, donuts, cronuts all fall into this category. Ice cream, burgers, bagel sandwiches, or any sandwich, for that matter. Baked goods. All of these items have one thing in common: they're easy to grab and go. Really, if you need a fork to eat it, you're limiting your market. It's difficult for me to visualize a bunch of drunk college kids sitting on a curb after 2am eating poutine with a fork.
  • Not healthy. I totally get that health isn't the biggest concern with the mass market. The whole bacon craze, chicken fries, Thirstbusters, and things like donut sandwiches actually prove the opposite: the more blatantly unhealthy it is, the more people are intrigued by it. But I do get the sense that people are becoming more and more conscious of what they're eating, as well as where it comes from. In addition, most unhealthy items tend to be a sole offering from an established organization - not an entire concept.
  • Hasn't caught on yet. Poutine has been available for a while now either as "poutine" or as a loaded fries type of option. Below are a few local examples. And, yes, they're all delicious. The question is, could they sustain an entire concept?
    • Eegee's (or any other type) of chili cheese fries
    • HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery's Prime Fries
    • Maynard's Poutine
    • Zinburger's Loaded Fries
  • French fry based concepts have been attempted. Granted, execution is key with any business and US Fries could be the one with superior business management skills, but here's a list of existing businesses around the nation that focus on fries:
    • Frjtz (fries with dipping sauces)
    • French Fry Heaven (flavored fries)
    • 3 Potato 4 (steamed instead of fried)
    • Pommes Frites (authentic belgian fries)
  • "Poutine" is tricky to pronounce. The word itself sounds foreign, is not associated with fries (although the name US Fries should solve that) and has an air about it as being "upper class". As in, "do you have any grey poupon?" 

Finally, I could be completely wrong. Here are a few reasons of why:

  • Now might be the time for fries to stand alone. It seems French Fry Heaven is expanding.
  • Zinburger only recently added a loaded fries option which may signify wider awareness.
  • According to this article on poutine, the comfort food is majorly trending.

For what it's worth, I'm already a fan. I love fries. It's one of my favorite guilty pleasures. And the guilt racks up the more I stack cheese and gravy all over them.

What do you think?

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