Jafflz hopes to take Park City, nation by storm
For Meryl van der Merwe, biting into a jaffle elicits nostalgia. Stuffed with leftovers or fillings such as canned spaghetti, the toasted pocket sandwiches are traditional fare in her native South Africa.
Now, van der Merwe, a local chef, is bringing a bit of her homeland to America — albeit in an elevated form. She recently opened the first location of Jafflz, at 7182 North Silver Creek Road, a restaurant that serves the sandwiches stuffed with gourmet foods such as gumbo or curry.
Backed by Kevin Plank, the founder and CEO of Under Armour, van der Merwe hopes to eventually transform the restaurant into a national and global chain. But at its core, Jafflz is an uncomplicated concept.
"It’s a super simple," van der Merwe said. "You walk in, choose a bread, choose a filling, then you eat it. You’re in and out within five or six minutes. It’s really going to be that new grab-and-go item."
While its signature fillings include gourmet options such as lamb curry and chicken enchilada, Jafflz offers something for everybody, van der Merwe said. Familiar foods such as macaroni and cheese and Italian meatball are also available — not to mention the breakfast and dessert jaffles.
"It’s whatever you are craving on any particular day," van der Merwe said. "And you do start to crave them. Some weeks, I’ll go on a kick where I want the exotic ones all the time, then I switch to the plain. They’re killer."
The idea for Jafflz began when van der Merwe wanted a dining option that would attract construction workers who were working near her on-the-go catering company Du Monde Gourmet. When her husband fell in love with jaffles on a trip they took to South Africa, she knew she had found her solution.
"My husband was just blown away," she said. "My mom made three different fillings, and his eyes were literally popping out."
She brought back 50 jaffle irons and got to work, selling hundreds of jaffles at the Park Silly Sunday Market throughout the summer. It was during that time that she introduced the sandwiches to Plank, for whom she had been a private chef for seven years.
Immediately, van der Merwe said, the sports apparel mogul was intrigued and quickly became involved. Like that, the idea of expanding Jafflz into a worldwide brand began to take flight. Plank put his resources behind the restaurant and got things moving quickly.
"He is really wanting to be involved in the product and be active and catapult the brand quicker than most startups would be," van der Merwe said. "That’s why everything in here, when you look at it, is really well thought out. We wanted to really be this retro-industrial cool, new grab-and-go item that will go national."
Jafflz is already in discussion with coffee shops and other vendors in the area to sell the sandwiches. After saturating the Park City and local markets, the next step is to go national — the timeline for which, van der Merwe said, is two years.
Park City’s Jafflz location — which serves walk-in customers and offers delivery — will function as the franchise’s headquarters.
"It’s an aggressive program, but when you’ve got the machine and the money, you can do it," van der Merwe said.
According to van der Merwe’s vision, Jafflz will flourish at locations where people want quick service, such as airports or sporting events. She anticipates the restaurant will particularly connect with young people, who demand fast, healthy food options.
"Millennials are driving food right now," she said. "There’s a reason why sales in all the food courts in all the malls are down. People want healthy and wholesome, but they also want it quick. We are doing that with the jaffle."
Jafflz will be hosting a private grand opening event Feb. 26, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. which Plank will be attending, van der Merwe said. For more information, visit jafflz.com.
7182 North Silver Creek Road
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