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Samantha Stephens, owner of OatMeals, an oatmeal bar in Greenwich Village, has transformed steel-cut oats from drab to delicious.
The shop, which opened in 2012, serves traditional additions to the basic breakfast like fruit, cinnamon and granola, but also quite a few unique alternatives. Peanut butter, truffle oil, soy sauce and pesto, among other ingredients, can be added to a bowl of hot oats at Stephens' shop.
"[Oatmeal is] really cool because it's a great vehicle for getting other great foods into your diet," Stephens told CNBC. "If you are eating oatmeal in the morning, you're probably going to throw some blueberries or pomegranate seeds or bananas on there. So you are sort of starting out your day making great decisions, getting all these other antioxidant-rich foods into your life and you'll probably make better decisions after that through the day."
Stephens, a former investment banker, wants consumers to look at oatmeal as something that can be eaten for lunch and dinner, not just breakfast. While the majority of her sales — about 300 bowls per day — are made during the mornings, oatmeal for lunch has started to catch on with New Yorkers.
"People are initially scared to try savory oatmeal with non-traditional toppings such as cheeses, bacon, pesto, truffle oil, Sriracha," she said, "but once they give it a try they are amazed and hooked."
Her creations caught the attention of Quaker, which named her their Creative Oatmeal Officer in 2013. Stephens assists the PepsiCo unit with recipe developments.
Success with services like UberEats, Caviar and Door Dash, among others, has allowed OatMeals to deliver to customers throughout Manhattan, a difficult feat for Stephens' in-house delivery team. It also indicates that there is demand for her product.
Stephens, who has seen sales at her shop grow 30 percent every year since its opening, is gearing up to franchise her business.
"I think OatMeals has a place in airports, college campus towns, all major cities, anywhere with heavy foot traffic, this works," she said. "Obviously here in Manhattan, it would be great to be in midtown or the financial district. I can't wait to expand."
Stephens' concept may be unique in that it serves only variations of oatmeal, but it was inspired by other shops that specialize in one specific item. There are dozens of shops in New York City that serve only variations of one product: from rice pudding and frozen yogurt to mac n' cheese and meatballs.
Connecticut-based Cheeseboy, a restaurant chain that focuses solely on grilled cheeses, has opened six locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Stephens didn't say where she'd be opening up next, but keep an eye out. There could be an oatmeal bar headed to a city near you.