Every adversity carries in itself a seed of opportunity, and Lisa Dowd’s life is a real example of it. In 2005, when Lisa was recovering from a surgery, she realized her innate passion for cooking while watching Rachael Ray, Julia Child, and Ina Garten. To fulfill her discerning palate and passion for cooking, she would cook for hours for her family and friends on the weekends. However, after some serious soul searching, at the age of 50, she finally decided to end her corporate career to follow her longing dream.
Having dedicated more than three decades to the corporate world, giving up her illustrious career was not an easy choice for Lisa to follow. But the decision was made and there was no turning back. Lisa was determined and came up with something perennial, not trend seeking, and yet in-demand all year round. She saw that grilled cheese and other comfort foods have been a favorite staple for decades, and being a huge fan herself, she zeroed in on gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Taking a giant leap of faith, within no time Lisa’s Cheesy Street Grill truck hit the streets of Connecticut. It served at different venues and companies in CT, MA, and NY. On weekends, they would also drive to various event locations such as farmers’ markets, country fairs, music festivals, charity events, weddings, birthdays, and graduation parties. The food truck was an instant hit and people just loved it. Within just 2 years of its beginning as a food truck, Lisa’s humble venture turned into two brick and mortar locations in Service Plazas on the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) on the Boston Corridor in 2016. Cheesy Street Grill is now recognized as a Connecticut based fast-casual restaurant known for its delicious Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.
“Cheesy Street Grill has a simple operation that consistently delivers a quality product. It does not require a large kitchen buildout, as it's all ventless cooking. We have a streamlined process, so minimal staff is needed, thus reducing labor costs.”
Cheese Wheelin’ and Sandwich Dealin’
For Lisa, Cheesy Street Grill is not just a business but a true expression of her passion and identity. She says, “I have a corporate background, so have a sound understanding of finances and good business and accounting practices, plus solid restaurant chops. I enforce professionalism in my staff and emphasize that great customer service is a must!” Under her leadership, Cheesy Street Grill developed standard practices for maintaining the quality that customers expect when looking for a quick meal. It takes them hardly 2-3 minutes to customize sandwich and ready for takeout, delivery or dine-in. As quality is taken very seriously, only high-quality hand-picked ingredients are used for their sandwiches and other food items.
Cheesy Street Grill has a versatile menu to choose from. They serve outstanding grilled cheese sandwiches and other comfort foods like decadent macaroni & cheese, potato tots, salads, creamy soups, juicy boneless beef short ribs along with goat cheese, fig jam, and red-wine caramelized onions. However, to avoid things getting monotonous & repetitive, they offer the customers a privilege to skip the menu, choose the kind of bread they want, and select the toppings to customize their grilled cheese sandwiches. These options appeal to all age groups, and both vegetarians and meat lovers. Lisa explains, “Cheesy Street Grill has a simple operation that consistently delivers a quality product. It does not require a large kitchen buildout, as it’s all ventless cooking. We have a streamlined process, so minimal staff is needed, thus reducing labor costs. Our high-quality ingredients and winning flavor combinations further set us apart from our competitors. Also, we have virtual zero food waste with our ingredients. The training process is quick, and our POS system is robust and easy to learn. In the end, outstanding food quality, and superior customer service are the features that make the customers fall in love with us and keep them coming back.” Quite evidently, Cheesy Street Grill been featured on The Rachael Ray and Phantom Gourmet Shows and is a proud recipient of the 2018 Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Best Up and Coming Small Business Award.
Despite such successes, the thought of franchising the business did not cross Lisa’s mind. She shares, “I am extremely hard working and driven, and knew the pairing of my love of cooking and my corporate discipline would be a winning combination. I decided to franchise my brand due to the demand from my customers demanding that I open more stores. Customers asked me all the time “Is this a franchise? Well if it isn’t, it should be”!” With the ever-increasing customer demand and popularity of their food, Lisa finally decided to do it and soon in 2019 sold her first franchise which is located in Wellesley, MA in the Boston Sports Institute.
With Cheesy Street Grill, the franchisees get an opportunity to be a part of its legacy and live a life of their dreams. At a very reasonable initial investment, Cheesy Street Grill franchisees enjoy a true recession resistant model that offers recurring revenue. But they have to be passionate individuals with an ability to both learn and mentor. Also, they need to love the food wholeheartedly since business is the transfer of conviction, and belief in your products and services goes a long way. For their support, Cheesy Street Grill provides initial training that is designed to set the business up for success from day one. After its completion, the franchisee gets access to a suite of outstanding business manuals which has answers to all the queries they could have. They also receive assistance in finding a suitable location for the business and any licensing matters which makes them uncomfortable. From responding to the franchisee’s phone calls, emails, and text messages, to customizing the menu for them, Cheesy Street Grill is willing to do everything it takes to make the franchise a success.
Rocking the hard times
Today, when most businesses are seeing a significant impact due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cheesy Street Grill with its infallible business plan has been growing consistently. They allow their owners to use multiple service options via brick-n-mortar, kiosk, mobile food truck, or a temporary tent, etc. Having such a sleek and transparent operational system, they are certain that they will survive these tough times. Lisa exclaims, “We have a recession-proof concept, as we’ve always done takeout and have remained open throughout the COVID-19 times. We have expanded our services to include delivery and have always offered online ordering. We have not had to modify our model throughout this crisis, except for our staff wearing masks and CONSTANT sanitizing practices.”
As for the future, Lisa asserts, “I wish to have a Cheesy Street Grill in most states throughout the US, and would love to have stores abroad too!”