People from across Durham are excited about Black- and woman-owned franchise that has swept the Triangle by storm in a matter of weeks.
Mr. Fries Man launched its grand opening this January 22 at 1105 West Main Street, next to Insomnia cookies. It is the only franchise in North Carolina currently.
Mr. Fries Man was founded by Craig Batiste in 2016. Batiste started his humble beginning in a small kitchen in Gardena, Calif.
So, it was only natural that Jaquetta Bratley, 35, and Safiyyah Williams, 37, would take on the challenge.
“Honey garlic with shrimp and chicken is my personal favorite,” Bratley said. “The Triangle’s top favorites are lemon garlic with shrimp and crab and honey garlic steak with shrimp.”
Mr. Fries Man has a team of 15, including the owners. Together Williams and Bratley have been in the restaurant business over 30 years.
The franchise sold over 2,100 meals on grand opening day. The restaurant’s specialty dishes include fries, chicken, steak, or seafood, and a sauce of the customer’s choice.
Customers have the option of ordering online, at a self-serve kiosk, or with a cashier. The restaurant also features an automatic heating system that keeps the food warm for customer pickups.
“I really liked the design layout here. It is very inviting and the fries have so much flavor. Since Durham is like a foodie town I think Mr. Fries Man is great for Durham,” Thaily Alvarez said.
“Everyone loves fries, and we also wanted to make sure that we had vegan options to reach a broader and more diverse audience,” Bratley said.
Mr. Fries Man has over 20 franchises in the United States and will expand its reach to Baltimore next.
“People become inspired when they see someone that is successful and doing a lot for the community who looks like you,” Bratley said. “People need to know the job can be done.”
Apart from the excitement, there are challenges to face.
Bratley and Williams say they have experienced racial microaggressions and continue daily to fight prejudice with love and let their passion for food do the talking.
“People are so shocked when we tell them we are the franchise owners. They always think we’re the managers,” Bratley said. “We are the first in the state of North Carolina so all eyes are on us.”
In the future, customers can expect to see crawfish, lobster, more vegan options, and junior-sized plates as a new addition to the menu.
“Attending an HBCU, it was important for me to support a Black-owned business. It is also even cooler that women are running it and that right there, is what I like to see,” Karrissa Forrester said.