Start-ups

'Shark Tank': Why Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner fought to invest 6 figures in this 'fast pasta' restaurant

ABC/Eric McCandless

Billionaire Mark Cuban has a track record of investing in food companies on ABC's "Shark Tank," especially when it comes to vegan and plant-based companies.

And on Friday's episode, a few of the Sharks had a similar interest – but this time around, it was a fight over a quick-serve pasta restaurant, Pasta by Hudson.

"We're a fast-casual, quick-service pasta bar, located in the heart of New York City," Brandon Fay, founder of Pasta by Hudson, told the Sharks during the episode.

At the restaurant, customers are able to customize a pasta dish by picking a type of pasta (including a vegetable pasta option), a type of sauce and any extras (including meatballs or other toppings). 

"When you cook with love, people can tell. They can tell right away," Fay told the Sharks. He yelled, "Who wants to make a lot of dough?"

The Sharks were impressed by Fay's loud presentation and enthusiasm, making them laugh frequently throughout the pitch.

But most of all, the Sharks loved his food.

"That is so good," Cuban said as he and the other Sharks tried bucatini pomodoro with meatballs.

"Let me tell you, this is the best meatball I ever had," Shark Barbara Corcoran said, with Greiner agreeing.

And to the Sharks' surprise, Fay revealed he isn't even Italian.

"[I'm] Jewish and Irish," he said during the episode. "Make the best Italian food!"

He also said he has no formal training as a chef, but had managed a restaurant for over 30 years.

"I ran one of the busiest restaurants in not only New York City, but pretty much the United States," Fay told the Sharks, referring to Trattoria Dell 'Arte in Manhattan. "I was managing director, 130 employees. When you work at a restaurant your whole entire life – I'm almost 25 years in the industry – you pick up a few things."

Although Pasta by Hudson currently has only one location, the Sharks saw potential for expansion.

"Let's talk about future, because really, your biggest future is delivery only," Cuban told Fay during the episode (which was taped in September 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic forced restaurants all over the country to take out.)

"If I knew that you had spaghetti squash on there, this size [pointing at his take-out box], with this sauce, and it was 250 calories, I'm ordering every night," Cuban said.

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Cuban liked the idea of Fay's pasta take-out becoming a "cloud kitchen," where food is ordered for delivery only with no dine-in restaurant option. 

With that, Greiner was ready to make an offer, but only with Cuban as her partner.

"If Mark would do it, I'd go in with Mark," Greiner said, just as Corcoran started to make Fay an offer.

"Obviously, your food is fabulous. That meatball, I wasn't just saying it, was the best meatball I've ever eaten by far," Corcoran told Fay. "I'll give you $150,000 for 50% of your meatball business if you get it online. You could make a fortune."

Fay asked the Sharks for $150,000 for a 10% in his entire business, not just his meatball recipe. 

Cuban then made his offer.

"I'll give you the $150,000," Cuban told Fay. "I want 20%, and I have no problem partnering with Lori. The only thing that I require is that we seriously consider the cloud kitchens."

After back and forth about how much equity Greiner would get in teaming up with Cuban, he devised a plan. 

"Here's what we're going to do. I'm going to put up $100,000, Lori will put up $50,000. We're going to take 30%. I'll keep 20%, and she'll keep 10%," Cuban told Fay. "Do we have a deal?"

And before Fay could agree, Cuban walked up to shake Fay's hand, which upset Corcoran. But Fay ultimately accepted Cuban and Greiner's deal.

"I'm going to tell you something Brandon, you made a mistake here," Corcoran said to Fay. "You had another deal on the table, and you never even entertained it!"

Of course, a lot has changed for restaurants since the episode taped. Though Fay did not immediately respond to CNBC Make It's request for comment, Pasta by Hudson is open for delivery only and is offering a 20% discount on all delivery orders, according to its website. The restaurant is also selling an "NYC Grocery Store Survival Kit" for $150, which includes items like four rolls of toilet paper, a tray of cooked pasta, a tray of vegetables and more.

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Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to "Shark Tank."

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