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The Dallas restaurant invasion heats up in Houston: Budding souffle empire picks a Bayou City locale

Bananas foster soufflé
Soufflés are on the menu at Rise nº1. Rise nº1/Facebook

It's lift-off time for Dallas restaurant Rise nº1, which intends to spread its souffles across the state — starting in Houston. Founder Hedda Dowd plans open in other Texas cities, including San Antonio, after the Houston expansion kicks everything off.

"We have a site selected for Houston, but we can't share it yet," she tells CultureMap.

Dowd says that, after six-and-a-half years in business, she wanted to be sure she had the right set of ingredients before considering expansion. According to the Dallas Business Journal, she's partnered up with some of the same investors responsible for the initial Dallas store, who've created a $4.2 million nest egg for an expansion entity called Rise Souffle Holdings. Those investors include Jon Luther, former chairman and CEO of Dunkin Brands.

"From day one, we were ready for the concept to be shared," Dowd says. "We've had many offers, and it may look easy on the outside, but not everyone realizes what it takes to make something of this nature happen."

Rise is definitely a unique bird, with its souffle-centric menu and charming decor. Dowd outfitted the restaurant with vintage linens and flatware from France that she'd collected over a long period of time.

But she says that's not the hardest part of expansion.

"The interior isn't the difficult part," she says. "The most difficult part is to inculcate people with your point of view. We have the advantage of time being on our side from the guest experience and staff experience. Servers, managers, we're all very equal here. It's not what you do; it's how you do it."

She compares her philosophy to Anthropologie, the women's clothing and decor chain.

"With Anthropologie, each store is different, and the minute you walk in the door, you get a sense of who they are and what they are about," she says. "We feel there will never be any Rise that looks the same intentionally.

"You'll know it's a Rise, but we are anti-cookie-cutter about everything. We would never want anyone to walk into the Rise in Houston and say, 'This is exactly like the one in Dallas.' "

The long-term plan is to open 10 locations; in the short term, they'll focus on Texas. "San Antonio is on our list, and anywhere in Texas that you can drive to or fly to," Dowd says.

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