What started out as a tasty base for sandwiches sold to restaurants has turned into a line of pancake and waffle mixes that will help people level up their breakfast (or lunch or dinner) game at home.
Chi Yan, the maker behind Walt’s Waffles (named after his middle son), gives Foodboro the lowdown on how he came up with waffle sandwich buns (computer models were involved) and how he’s making that recipe mix available to all.
Growing up, did you have an interest in the food and beverage industry? If so, when did you first become interested in food and beverage industry?
Not at all! I grew up working in the family restaurant and I thought I wanted nothing to do with the food industry. However, my parents were great cooks and food was always part of our family gatherings so it’s a part of me. I only became interested when I got the entrepreneurial bug.
Where did the inspiration for your product come from?
It really was born from a light bulb moment. Browsing the internet one day, I saw many images of delicious-looking sandwiches made with waffles. Imagining they would be quite a delicious but messy proposition, I thought there was a solution. Many computer models, prototypes, and recipes later, Walt’s Waffles was born.
Can you tell us a bit more about your product? What makes it stand out from other pancake mixes?
We make the first waffles designed just for sandwiches. Our Original Waffle Buns have the right shape to hold up to the messiest eaters and customers on-the-go by merging the rounded shape and functionality of a sandwich bun with the delicious taste and texture of a waffle.
They have an unmistakable lightly sweet buttery waffle taste with a great toast to give them a great crispy exterior but remain soft and fluffy inside. And we offer that same recipe as a delicious easy-to-use Original Pancake & Waffle Mix so you can have that same Walt’s Waffles recipe at home.
When did you decide to start selling your product?
I looked for a partner to help launch the business for several years. Then I found Union Kitchen in D.C. in 2019 and decided to take the leap and launched the company. We started our small-scale manufacturing in 2020.
What were the early days of business like?
It’s been challenging to say the least. When Covid-19 lockdowns hit, much of our momentum was wiped out. We’re just getting our feet under us again and adding some much needed wins under our belt. But we’re excited for the opportunities that are beginning to materialize and look forward to finishing 2020 stronger.
What has been the hardest part of launching a product so far?
Getting out of my comfort zone. Everything I do for the business is a new experience and has a learning curve.
What has been your proudest moment as a founder?
When I found out that I was granted the U.S. utility patent for the waffle bun. It was a really big accomplishment and acknowledged years of hard work.
What can we expect next?
We’re excited to join Rainforest Distribution with their expansive delivery area and will work hard with their team to add our products to more retailers. We also just got picked up with Giant Food and you can now get our pancake and waffle mix through their home delivery service.
What advice do you have for other early-stage food and beverage entrepreneurs?
Prepare for the long haul, expect to fail often, and learn to ask for help.