Senior year of college means spending time with friends, applying to jobs, passing final classes and … running a business?
Six ambitious University of New Hampshire (UNH) seniors have poured their hearts and souls into late-night eats spot Fry’d, an instant Durham hit.
“Food for friends, by friends” is the motto at Fry’d, and that sentiment is infused into everything they do.
The idea first came to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Darren Gibadlo while he was at a food truck festival in California. He thought that sort of business model would do well in Durham, but there were unfortunately some restrictions regarding food trucks on UNH’s campus. He enlisted the help of his best friends and roommates to brainstorm, and the project took off from there.
The team includes Gibadlo, senior finance & entrepreneurial studies dual major; Chief Marketing Officer Ethan Landon, senior marketing major and psychology minor; Chief Financial Officer Patrick Duggan, senior finance major and economics minor; Chief Accounting Officer Keane Regan, senior finance major and economics minor; Chief Technology Officer Christopher Sheehan, a finance major and environmental conservation & sustainability minor who graduated in December; and Environmental Health and Safety Manager & Director of Morale Nelson Davis, a senior environmental conservation & sustainability major.
The guys have had to devote most of their free time and energy to the business, as well as sacrificing many of the typical senior year traditions such as going out with friends on the weekends. However, they are loving it.
Gibadlo says they try to separate their relationships as friends versus as business partners. “I think everyone is on the same page about it… we all purposefully put that ‘friend hat’ away, you know, and take out that ‘business hat’ and put it on for a couple hours, so that we can have a successful service and get through those four hours without any hiccups. I think everyone’s done a pretty outstanding job with that so far,” he said.
Fry’d opened their doors in the beginning of March and have had an exceptional first month of business. They are operating as a “ghost kitchen” out of Wildcat Pizza, at 3 Madbury Road.
Even given their welcoming atmosphere, engaging social media content and clever business model, the food is the star of the show.
Serving late-night, American-style comfort food, the menu includes many popular munchies such as mozzarella sticks and curly fries, as well as signature grilled cheese sandwiches and mac and cheese flavors. The item names were designed with college life in mind, such as their
“U Up?” buffalo chicken grilled cheese or their “The One Night Stand” mac and cheese topped with BBQ pulled pork.
Of course, a college town with over 13,000 students can always use an option for late night food, especially when it’s carefully designed by students themselves.
“People are kind of cooped up and we want to be viewed as ‘that friend’ who’s there and you can relate to… We’re trying to create that fun, inviting vibe and just be that person you can turn to, that’s always gonna be there,” said Landon.
In addition to the food, the marketing strategy at Fry’d has been crucial to their success. They’ve utilized social media and other online forms of advertising to get the word out like their newsletter, share behind the scenes clips, and advertise menu specials and options.
When the team was designing the menu, Gibadlo personally knew the struggle of going out for late night food while having dietary restrictions. Landon says they see a large amount of orders each night flagged with ‘gluten-free intolerant,’ ‘gluten-free celiac,’ and others. “That’s definitely one of our big themes about our company, and it seems to have boded very well… I think that the people really love it,” Landon says.
Their brand is designed to be affordable, local and inclusive. These attributes can be seen in the food itself as well as the entrepreneurs.
From sitting around their living room on their laptops, brainstorming where to go, to doing taste tests for friends, to offering Super Bowl catering and finally their official opening, the business has been a long time in the making.
One fun project they have developed since opening is their “secret menu,” which features unique, limited-time items.
Fry’d is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and offers both takeout and delivery, as well as catering.
So, what’s next for the Fry’d guys? “We’re at that point where we kind of need to decide where we want to go. We’ve definitely found that niche in the late night college market and that’s something that we want to stay true to,” Gibadlo said.
After graduation, they plan to move into Gibadlo’s family home and continue working on their goals with the business. They are looking to have a food truck around the Seacoast area this summer, and will be back on campus for the fall semester.
Photos courtesy of Fry’d.