If you think you’ve already seen “cereal bars” next to granola in the grocery store, think again. From college campuses to the Chicago Loop, a new breed of counter-service establishments has cropped up, selling cereal as their main menu item. The most popular of these fast-food cereal bars is a chain called Cereality, started several years ago by smug entrepreneurs David Roth and Rick Bacher. The concept is simple: imagine a grinning “cereologist” clad in a pajama top, armed with a scoop, and trained to sell name-brand cereal in all its permutations. From simple two-scoop servings in take-out containers to crazy multi-cereal mixes with exotic toppings and flavored milk, the cereal bar is meant to be a fun-loving place for this favourite American breakfast food – morning, noon, and night.
Cereal bars use well-established cereal brands and a range of accoutrements to attract customers of all types, from health nuts to sugar freaks and curious housewives to chipper hipsters. Whatever your dietary needs and level of health consciousness, cereal bars cater to your appetite and personality. You can order a fiber-filled twig-n-rock cereal with granola bits, yogurt, and fresh fruit. Or you can indulge with Cap’n Crunch, marshmallows, and chocolate milk. The Cereality chain and its single-store peers are attracting not only college students, who find the cereal containers convenient for class, but also commuting professionals who seek the sweet cereals their suburban cupboard-keepers often deny them. It’s a practical and playful place where people curiously combine cereal brands and then report their newest concotions to friends and co-workers.
By taking a food that can be personalized, making it portable, and marketing it with cunning gimmicks, the Cereality founders have gained a fair amount of media attention for turning the novel concept into a chain. In fact, the chain’s capitalistic craftiness is almost devious because it doesn’t develop new “base” products of its own – it just allows customers to combine cereal and toppings already made famous by other companies. After all, ask anyone to name ten types of cold cereal alone, and they can probably do it in under a minute. By tapping into the cross-cultural affinity for cereal, something which follows most of us from childhood to adulthood, cereal bars like Cereality shrewdly secure business.
You can see pictures of Roth’s and Backer’s “cereal bar and café” design at www.cereality.com. With easy-to-stock supplies and limited kitchen equipment, cereal bars are have low startup costs and require little space. But before you think of slinging Shredded Wheat for yourself, be warned: Roth and Bacher have patented parts of their Cereality business concept and have begun warning wannabes not to infringe upon their intellectual property. Apparently, they’re not keen on sharing their Kix.