Last Wednesday, Iowa basketball announced that sales of the "Franwich" – a Philly cheese steak sandwich named after Iowa head basketball coach Fran McCaffery – raised over $34,000 for charity, and the success of the venture has led McCaffery to take the concept to the next level: creating his own restaurant that will serve nothing but Fran-themed food.
The "Franwich" sold at 23 Iowa Applebee's locations helped raise $34,044 for the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. pic.twitter.com/jYNAxl2n9P— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) April 15, 2015
"We had no idea the Franwich would do as well as it did," said McCaffery. "We thought: 'People don't buy food purely on the basis of puns, do they?' Turns out, they sure do." The new restaurant, tentatively named "Fran's", is scheduled to open this fall in Coralville, and will serve an eclectic menu of food from around the world, all playing off of McCaffery's name or antics in some way.
"We've got it all: Frantipasto, Saag Franeer, Franikopita, and, of course, Fran. We searched all of world cuisine for dishes that met two crucial criteria: one, they had to represent the finest achievements in the culinary arts, and two, you had to be able to work 'Fran' in there somehow." These requirements forced McCaffery to move outside of his comfort zone when it came to food. "I tend to like more traditional, Philly-style cuisine, so I wouldn't necessarily have wanted to include Vietnamese crepes or French sausage on the menu, but they really work for pun-based reasons, so they're in."
McCaffery has announced that he will, in spite of his busy coaching schedule, run the restaurant personally, along with the help of family and ex-players. "It should be a terrific and potentially very humorous situation. I'll be behind the bar – the crusty ex-jock who's always losing his cool – [ex-Hawkeye guard] Brody Boyd has said he'll come back to help me out as assistant bartender, and Margaret [McCaffery] should make a dynamite barmaid who is as feisty as she is quick-witted. Not to mention I've gotten Acie Earl and Wade Lookingbill to commit to being my first regulars. They banter back and forth and argue over arcane Hawkeye trivia, and then Acie will block a pretzel that Wade's trying to toss in his mouth. It's a lot of fun. Oh, and [Pulitzer Prize-winning author] Marilynne Robinson has said she'll stop by and serve as the bar's egghead intellectual element, which should contrast nicely with our more down-to-earth sports milieu."
McCaffery made it plain that the proceeds from this new venture will not be directed toward charity. "The Franwich was great, and I'm glad it raised some money for a good cause, but at a certain point it becomes a little absurd for a person to lend his name and likeness to a product and not derive profit from it. I mean, c'mon, this is America. Now every plate of Franicotti I sell, my family will make a little something off it, which is only fair."
In the end, McCaffery views the restaurant and its Fran-centric menu as not only a business opportunity, but a personal vindication. "Let me tell you, growing up with the name Fran was not particularly easy. It was kind of a boy-named-Sue situation, honestly. Kind of explains a lot about my temper, now that I think of it. Anyway, to see that name become something that actually attracts positive attention is, well, it's as sweet as my patented Frananas Foster. Just $6.95, and brought to your table by me, Fran."