The owner of Waffles Cafe, the Chicago restaurant which created the donut-waffle combo, the "wonut," has trademarked the term in hopes of expanding his operation.
The first phase of that expansion is a kiosk planned for a Nov. 25 opening on the ground floor of Water Tower Place. Owner Alex Hernandez hopes shoppers will get a chance to nosh on a wonut just in time for Black Friday. The opening was first reported by Crain's.
The kiosk will receive wonut deliveries four times a day from the Waffles Cafe at 203 E. Ohio St. They'll offer Water Tower shoppers a variety of coffees and drinks to accompany their pastries, from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.
The Water Tower kiosk is an experiment, as Hernandez looked for a high-traffic area for expansion to test what consumers want. Wonuts are fried mini-waffles topped like donuts.
"In November and December, there are more than a million visitors that come to the space, so we'll be able to get a broad idea to what locals and what tourists think of wonuts," he said.
Expanding too quickly is a concern for Hernandez, who holds up the story of Crumbs Bake Shop as a cautionary tale. Crumbs, which also has a shop inside of Water Tower, filed for bankruptcy. Waffles Cafe could avoid that path by diversifying its menu offerings, Hernandez said, and one step toward that is a new line of hot chocolates made with Belgian chocolate and steamed milk. Eventually, Hernandez is looking to open locations that could offer made-to-order wonuts, with staffers frying, glazing and topping the pastries onsite. That won't be the case at the small Water Tower kiosk.
Since wonuts became an internet sensation in April, wonut imitators have popped up across the country, and Hernandez said he's trademarked the term. So far lawyers have no need to issue cease and desist letters. Hernandez said it's flattering but he's only concerned if others take credit for something they created.
"It's not an issue at this point, but as we grow, we may have to challenge anyone else doing wonuts that isn't affiliated with us," he said.