Details About Buena Papa Fry Bar From Shark Tank

Without a doubt, plenty of restaurants have found success after "Shark Tank," whether or not they scored an investment on the show. One of the latest restaurants to seek such a deal is Buena Papa Fry Bar, which will appear in the show's 15th season.

Buena Papa started in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2021, serving up Colombian-style gourmet fries. The restaurant has since opened a second Raleigh location and spots in Durham, North Carolina, and Miami, Florida. They also plan to open franchises in Wilmington, Chapel Hill, and Jacksonville and hope to expand nationwide.

Currently, the business is run by husband-and-wife duo James and Johanna Windon, with help from their three kids. The idea for Buena Papa was born during the COVID-19 lockdowns, when the family tried to make a Colombian dish but had to substitute fries for rice. Though, who doesn't love loaded fast food fries? Perhaps that's what makes it such a winning concept.

Buena Papa's founders were new to the food industry

Before opening the first Buena Papa Fry Bar location, James and Johanna Windon had no experience when it came to running a restaurant. Before the pandemic, the couple owned a cleaning business, so jumping into the food industry was a leap of faith. In an interview with Restaurant Unstoppable, James explained that going into it, they didn't know anything about food costs or labor costs. Instead, the duo learned as they went.

After the Windons developed their loaded fry concept, James tried to locate a place to set up shop. Though they might not have known much about the restaurant business, the Windons knew they did not want to deal with vehicle maintenance based on their experience managing a cleaning business, so food trucks were out of the question. Mall food courts and local food halls turned James away after they found out he had zero experience, but he kept at it until he managed to lease a 200-square-foot space in Raleigh's Morgan Street Food Hall.

Everyone wants a bite of Buena Papa's loaded fries

Within months of Buena Papa Fry Bar opening, the Windons took between 300 and 400 orders per weekend, often selling out. As a result, the business soon pulled in enough money for Buena Papa to branch out into its additional locations. 

Today, Buena Papa has a Yelp rating of 4.3 stars, with customers raving about the quick service and delicious fries. Though a single order of fries can cost up to $17, many customers have noted that they're large enough to feed two or three people. Of course, you could keep all the fries and enjoy them as two or three meals. 

Buena Papa currently holds more than 12,000 followers on Instagram, where the business regularly shares photos of fries inspired by numerous countries' cuisines, including Greece, Italy, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Colombia. While initially drawing from Johanna's Colombian roots, the variety on Buena Papa's menu allows customers to taste other parts of the world. 

Buena Papa fries come heaped with tasty goodness

Don't get us wrong, we love loaded specialty Chick-fil-A fries, but some may feel they pale to what you can order at Buena Papa. As noted earlier, the business serves up a variety of fries, but the Colombian fries are what started it all.

Buena Papa's Colombiano fries come topped with refried beans and chicharrones, which are different from pork rinds in that its chicharrones use only fried pork belly instead of fried pork skin. These fries also come with a generous serving of chorizo, guacamole, and pico de gallo.

A more traditional loaded fry, Buena Papa's Americano fries are loaded with favorite baked potato toppings. Of course, if you don't want your fries smothered with melted cheese, thick-cut bacon, or pulled pork, Buena Papa also offers sweet potato fries with smoked salmon, guacamole, and pico de gallo. We knew that fries could be a meal, but Buena Papa has made it more socially acceptable to embrace this concept. 

What happened to Buena Papa Fry Bar on Shark Tank?

Entering with a dance to salsa music, the Sharks chuckled through James and Johanna's animated, multilingual pitch for the business, capped off by asking for $400,000 for 7% of the company.

As most food contestants do, the two brought samples for the Sharks, with Mr. Wonderful delivering an enthusiastic "Ay chihuahua caramba!" while Lori expressed her love of the restaurant's dipping sauces. The others agreed and admired the entrepreneurs' dedication and success despite having no previous restaurant experience. The Sharks were also impressed by their high margins.

Unfortunately, the discussion then began to turn negative. After James and Johanna explained aspects like Buena Papa's franchising program, Mark and Robert questioned why the company needed a Shark instead of continuing to grow at its current pace. Lori agreed and dropped out, as did Mark, who noted the competing business models of restaurant operation and franchising that Buena Papa would have to juggle. Kevin pointed to his healthier eating habits and withdrew, saying he wouldn't be able to promote the company as he prefers to do. Barbara peppered the two with compliments but also dropped out, telling the entrepreneurs, "You don't really need anybody; I think you have the whole package."

The attention then turned to Robert, the sole remaining Shark. He praised James, Joanna, and Buena Papa but took issue with the valuation, making an offer of $400,000 for 20 percent, cutting the company's valuation by more than half. James and Johanna counteroffered 15 percent, 17 percent, 18 percent, and finally 19 percent of the company, which Robert accepted.