RESTAURANT REVIEW: Cereality 

Bowled Over: A cereal chain peddles puffed corn to the masses

Cereality
American/Eclectic — Casual
401 B. King St. Downtown
(843) 937-0026
Breakfast, Lunch
Open Mon-Sat: 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sun: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Walk through the front door at Cereality and you can just picture its humble beginnings: Two guys sitting around in a college dorm room planning next Saturday's football tailgate between bouts of Playstation, the occasional puke-inducing drinking game, and the obligatory breakfast of champions — cereal with hot beer. Somewhere amid the bong-smoke haze, poised with Cocoa Puffs in hand, there was a revelation. "Dude, we could sell this crap."

Any good college boy has been there — drinking 12 packs with mom's tuition money while inventing the next great thing that would preclude ever again worrying about scraping beer money together for Tuesday night fights on ESPN. We had a million of those schemes, with none of the balls (or capital) to pull them off.

Of course, Cereality didn't really go down that way. The whole idea of a restaurant that dispenses 31 cereal brands with the choice of 30 different toppings was supposedly cooked up by a couple of stiffs with experience in corporate art design and entrepreneurial media ventures. The polish shows through, slick and corporate, right down to the T-shirts and coffee mugs imprinted with catchy cereal-themed slogans. Think Starbucks — but with cereal instead of coffee.

Inside, there's a squeaky clean, corporate façade, replete with flat-screen televisions, an expensive leased view of Marion Square, and leather seating.

You have to wonder what kind of people lead such busy lives that they are better off doling out fat cash for a cupful of puffed corn, basically the same stuff that they feed people down at the local jail (albeit with slightly less fanfare), when they could have bought a whole box at the Pig for the same price. It's no coincidence that the place plopped down near the college, where such expenditure is both trendy and affordable with daddy's plastic. If they make it — and with at least five current locations, most of which reside in student unions and campus neighborhoods around the country, they look to have made a good start — we just may be witnessing the most inventive marketing plan in history, and you've got to respect the effort.

Cereality's food is not bad. But it's hard to ruin a bowl of Frosted Flakes. Add half-drunk, bleary-eyed college kids happy enough to dole out four bucks for a cupful of Lucky Charms or a bowl of oatmeal — and that spells success.

They even seem to have caught the "organic" trend, with smoothies and earth friendly mixes like their organic Gorilla Munch. But what's the point of downing organic cereal with conventional milk full of growth hormones and antibiotics? You could go for the soy milk, I guess, but get that topped with bananas and chocolate syrup. Then you can kiss that Wednesday morning hangover goodbye and eat the whole thing on the way to class.

The rest of the offerings follow the same trend. Coffee goes for two bucks, and it's locally roasted — somewhere in Ravenel. Steamed milk with some syrup squirted in will cost you $3. A special, trademarked plastic straw/spoon called the "Sloop," obviously aimed at penetrating the burgeoning cafeteria "spork" market, goes for a dollar. Altogether a colossal rip-off, aimed at gullible college kids with an inventive marketing scheme. But, dude, if you can only get people to come in and buy something from you that they could make at home for a fraction of the cost, you're golden. Hey, if it worked for coffee, why not cereal?

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