Details You'll Want To Know About Shark Tank's Buena Papa French Fry Bar

Who doesn't love French fries? That was the thinking of James and Johanna Windon, who founded Buena Papa Fry Bar – which is all about made-to-order gourmet French fries with a variety of internationally inspired toppings — in Raleigh, North Carolina back in 2021.

The husband-and-wife team launched the concept when the pandemic caused the temporary closure their cleaning business. Spanish for 'good potato,' the inspiration for Buena Papa struck while the couple was preparing a Colombian specialty, called bandeja paisa, at home for their family. A mixture of beans, chorizo, and pork belly, the dish is traditionally served with rice. But a lack of the staple grain in their cupboards meant the couple had to improvise, so they substituted rice with homemade French fries. They loved the resulting dish so much that an idea for a business was born.

The Windons have described the opportunity to appear on "Shark Tank” Season 15 as "a dream come true," and hope that "local history" will be made (via Facebook).

Buena Papa is the Carolina Hurricanes' official loaded fry

Following the launch of its first branch in Raleigh — and a second in Durham — Buena Papa Fry Bar opened its third location at PNC Arena, North Carolina, in October 2022, becoming one of the vendors providing food for visitors to Carolina Hurricanes hockey and NC State's men's basketball games.

Named as the "official loaded fry of the Carolina Hurricanes for their 2022-2023 season," (via Spectrum News 1), Buena Papa reduced the menu offering at the venue to four of its most popular loaded fry options: El Mexicano, El Americano, El Griego, and a local specialty, The Carolina, which includes pulled pork seasoned with apple cider vinegar and spices, coleslaw, and BBQ sauce. The company sold out of all its dishes on its first appearance at the arena.

In the fall of 2023, Buena Papa announced its first Florida franchise location in Miami. The menu includes a couple of new dishes specially for the new venue, including El Cubano, with ingredients inspired by a melty Cuban sandwich, and El Miami, which features tender pulled pork along with guava barbecue sauce, creamy queso fresco, and yuca chips. Miami is one of four franchise locations (the other three being in North Carolina) following the business' launch of a national franchising program.

Mexican celebrity chef Pati Jinich is a fan

In the summer of 2022, the host of the PBS TV series "Pati's Mexican Table" came to visit Buena Papa's Fry Bar for a new digital series called "Thriving Through Food." Pati Jinich described the idea of using fries "as a vehicle to introduce locals to Johanna's native Colombian cuisine" as "a genius mashup" (via Facebook). In the segment, the Windons share the story of their name: James overheard Johanna speaking with her mother, who called someone a good potato, and the rest is history.

In October 2023, Buena Papa's Fry Bar was featured on the "Raleigh" episode of the ACC Network travel series "3-Day Weekend" with host Jess Roy. The brand is also attracting interest on social media, with the tag "Buena Papa Fry Bar review" earning over five million views on TikTok. The company itself already has over 15,000 followers on the platform, along with more than 12,000 on Instagram. The franchise has exploded fast, with multiple social media spotlights and reviews positively rolling in across the internet.

What happened to Buena Papa French Fry Bar on Shark Tank

James and Johanna Windon appeared on Season 15, Episode 4 of "Shark Tank," seeking $400,000 for a 7% stake in their company, Buena Papa Fry Bar. The couple shared that they had started the company with only $18 in their bank account and had invested their life savings into it.

At Buena Papa Fry Bar, fries are not just a side dish — they're the main event. The couple offered the Sharks samples of their Latin-inspired loaded fries for tasting. The Sharks were impressed by both the flavors and the company's profit margins. The Windons explained that each dish costs $3.50 to make, but sells for $13.50 — and what's more, they reported that their first location had generated $1.1 million in its inaugural year. Their goal — provided they were able to secure a strategic partner — was to begin franchising Buena Papa Fry Bars nationwide.

Sharks Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Kevin O'Leary, and Barbara Corcoran passed on the opportunity to invest. However, after a brief discussion on the valuation of the company — the Windons projected it would be worth $6 million by the following year — Robert Herjavec extended an offer of $400,000 for a 20% stake in the business. The Windons successfully negotiated this down to 19%, and a deal was struck.