Grilled cheese franchise melts into market


Trew Quackenbush, left, and Corey Ward, founders of the Tom+Chee franchise of grilled cheese restaurants, stand in front of a menu. Courtesy Tom+Chee

Trew Quackenbush and Corey Ward think they can give your mom’s grilled cheese sandwich a run for its money — and yours.

Hungry West Michiganders will soon be able to find out for themselves.

Quackenbush and Ward, restaurant entrepreneurs recently featured on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” said that their grilled cheese and soup restaurant franchise, Tom+Chee, is coming to the Grand Rapids market, thanks to an investment deal from Barbara Corcoran, an investor, or “shark,” on the show.

Rachel Caliendo has signed on to be the Grand Rapids franchisee, with plans to open up three locations in the area, Ward said.

The first store will likely be open by summer, and the second and third stores will not open for probably another year or more, Ward said.

Michigan’s first Tom+Chee opened in the Lansing area last week.

The model is to have one franchisee open several stores in a territory, rather than have many franchisees responsible for only one location each.

“That way, each person has a piece of the country they can own,” Ward said. “We weren’t excited about the idea of having people with just one franchise location.”


Although Ward and Quackenbush have received about 12,000 inquiries from all 50 states, plus Ireland, Dubai and Canada, the Cincinnati-based franchise wants to focus mainly on the Midwest for now.

Ward said they plan to open about 40 stores this year.

“We have 150 stores under contract,” Quackenbush said. “By the end of 2014, we’ll have Tom+Chee in 15 states and will be opening a store a week. It’s proof that hard work and good food can make your dreams come true.”

Tom+Chee is one of the “25 Brands to Watch,” according to the 2013 Brand Innovators Made In America Summit.

Grilled Cheese Donut

The restaurant’s Grilled Cheese Donut was named one of America’s best new sandwiches on NBC’s “Today” show and has been featured on the Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food Nation” and ABC’s “The Chew.” 

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