Cereality's employees wear PJs. The cereals--30 brands from a variety of companies--are on display in glass-fronted cabinets. In addition to the dry cereals, the menu offers cereal toppings, liquids ranging from full-fat cow's milk to soymilk, hot cereals, cereal-yogurt parfaits and cereal bars. Two scoops of cereal, milk and a topping costs $3.99.
While customers are free to create their own cereal combinations, Cereality offers suggestions as well. One example: Life Experience, which combines Life cereal, bananas, nuts and honey. (Life is a Quaker Oats brand, and Chicago-based Quaker Oats Co. was an early investor in Cereality).
Cereality founders David Roth and Rick Bacher both have branding backgrounds. Roth's is in publishing and Bacher's in television. Bacher produced marketing materials for HBO's "Sex and the City."
Aware that offering branded cereal and milk isn't rocket science, the two have trademarked about 40 phrases, including "cereologist" (Cereality's employees) and the slogan "Always Saturday Morning." (In early August, Cereality settled a trademark-infringement lawsuit it filed against an Ohio-based company called Cerealicious.)
Cereality's typical customers are in their 20s. The chain has three locations in areas well-stocked with young people: on campus at Arizona State University, near the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in Chicago and across from the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia. It plans a fourth restaurant in Evanston, Ill., home of Northwestern University, and also plans to franchise.
The privately held chain doesn't release check averages or sales figures. However, a spokeswoman said that for a novelty concept, Cereality enjoys good repeat business.
The authors of The Experience Economy recently named Cereality the "Experience Stager of the Year," an award previously bestowed on American Girl Place.
But Cereality "is most assuredly a novelty," says Mary Boltz Chapman, editor of Chain Leader, an Oak Brook, Ill.-based trade magazine. "It's fun," she says. "It has a great experiential element to it, but it doesn't have a lot of things necessary to stand the test of time in a lot of locations."
"It's difficult to imagine a person visiting a cereal restaurant again and again," she added.