Pollo Campero Sales Strong as Restaurant Chain Sees Sales Growth of 9.1% for Third Quarter of 2016

November 3, 2016

PRNewswire
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/pollo-campero-sales-strong-as-restaurant-chain-sees-sales-growth-of-91-for-third-quarter-of-2016-300354533.html

Campero Marks Sales Momentum with New Store Openings and New Value Latin Meals

DALLAS, Nov. 1, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Pollo Campero, the world’s largest Latin chicken restaurant brand, announced today its sales momentum remains strong as it reports a 9.1 percent same-store sales growth for the third quarter 2016. This marks the Latin chain’s 19th consecutive quarter with positive comparable growth and comes as Campero focuses on expanding both its U.S. and international footprint, while growing its Millennial customer base.

In fact, Campero has now generated a +8 percent compounded same-store sales growth for the past five years. “We are extremely pleased that we continue to see strong growth, despite a restaurant industry slowdown this year,” said Tim Pulido, President and CEO of Pollo Campero International. “Year to date, we have posted excellent comparable growth of +9 percent, positive comparable traffic growth and 22 percent total sales growth driven by our new store openings.”

Pollo Campero has seen steady growth with Millennials, with the group now comprising more than 64 percent of Campero’s customer base in 2016, according to Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics. Campero attributes much of this growth to the constant innovation and enhancement of its bold, Latin-inspired menu.

“Pollo Campero has maintained its relevancy with its growing Millennial customer base by introducing menu items that are true to who they are,” said Darren Tristano, President of Technomic, Inc. “Their new products are viewed as exciting by their customers, helping them differentiate the brand from the competition—their sales results this year reflect that.”

Pollo Campero’s latest limited time offer items include value offerings for individual and family occasions that highlight Campero’s signature Latin flavors. The brand also launched its new kids’ program featuring new Pollito Meals with healthier pairings and more variety for the entire family.

“We understand that our guests have busy, demanding lives,” said Pulido. “Campero’s new Latin meals are proof that families, no matter how busy, can still enjoy fresh, flavorful meals on the go and on a budget.”

Pollo Campero Expansion: Challenge Accepted
As sales continue to grow, Pollo Campero also remains focused on restaurant expansion both in the United States and around the world. Campero currently has in place a goal to nearly double the number of its restaurants in the next three years. So far in 2016, Campero has opened 8 restaurants in the United States, with 6 more slated to open by the end of the year.

While much of Campero’s growth plans are concentrated on key states, such as California and Texas, along with the Washington, D.C. metro area, the brand has recently inked a deal to open its first restaurant in Tennessee – a franchise to be located in Nashville and expected to open during the first quarter of 2017.

ABOUT POLLO CAMPERO
Pollo Campero, considered the home of Authentic Latin Chicken, is the largest Latin chicken restaurant brand in the world. It first opened its doors as a tiny, family-owned restaurant in Guatemala in 1971 with the goal of treating family and friends to its prized chicken recipe passed down from generation to generation. Today, as Pollo Campero marks its 45th anniversary, its focus on quality, and its mission to stay true to its Latin roots remain the same. Pollo Campero is committed to serving unique Latin recipes prepared by hand daily using high-quality and all-natural ingredients. At the heart of that commitment: the promise to use fresh, never frozen, hormone-free chicken paired with traditional Latin sides, drinks and desserts in a vibrant atmosphere. There are more than 350 Pollo Campero restaurants around the world and Campero is accelerating growth. For franchise information, or to learn more about Pollo Campero, visit Campero.com. Follow the flavor on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @CamperoUSA.


Striking While the Tortilla Warmer is Hot

October 5, 2016

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By David Farkas
http://restfinance.com/Restaurant-Finance-Across-America/October-2016/Striking-While-the-Tortilla-Warmer-is-Hot/

Mendocino Farms co-founders Mario Del Pero and wife Ellen Chen have put their money where many mouths are. Last month, the couple invested an undisclosed sum in Dos Toros, a 11-unit New York City-based taqueria chain that plans to expand to Chicago next year. “There is an unbelievable runway for them [to grow],” Del Pero declared in a recent interview.

The timing of the investment is no accident. Investors have been scouting for a viable investment vehicle in the category given the troubles at beleaguered Chipotle Mexican Grill. “I think that with the decline in traffic to Chipotle, the opportunity for other restaurants to capture share and support their desire for flavorful Mexican fare is very high,” Technomic Inc. President Darren Tristano told the Monitor. The market research firm expects Mexican fast-casual to grow 8% overall in 2016.

Del Pero and Chen invested alongside Managing Director Nick Marsh of GrowthPoint Partners, which last month made a $10 million minority investment in Dos Toros. Marsh, an early investor in the Studio City, Calif.-based premium sandwich chain, is also CEO of Chopt Creative Salad Company. “He’s a close restaurant friend that we trust,” Del Pero said.

Although Del Pero declined to reveal how much capital the couple put up, he acknowledged it was their own money. Still, he added, he sought permission for the investment from private equity firm Catterton, which has a substantial stake in 13-unit Mendocino Farms. “We made it very clear that we’re just investors, though we are a sounding board for Leo and Oliver,” Del Pero explained.

Brothers Leo and Oliver Kremer founded Dos Toros (“two bulls” in Spanish) in 2009, slowly opening units in Manhattan and Brooklyn until they added a second line in store in a busy Manhattan food-court two years ago. The addition has allowed new units to serve 450 people an hour.

Del Pero wouldn’t comment on Dos Toros AUVs or unit economics but claimed Dos Toros unit sales rivaled Chipotle’s. Before the chain’s food-poisoning problems, CMG reported volumes of $2.5 million. Dos Toros reportedly rang up $20 million in 2015.

He also said the couple would likely offer Dos Toros advice on catering and procurement as the brand scales outside New York City. “We think there is opportunity in catering. So that’s one of the things we can help with,” Del Pero offered.


Does Taco Bell’s Fast-Casual Entry Have a Chance?

April 24, 2014

Taco Bell is following the lead of its YUM! sister brand KFC, which entered the fast-casual market last year. KFC Eleven features hand-crafted food—flatbreads, rice bowls and KFC Boneless Original Recipe Chicken—in a more contemporary environment.

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Taco Bell’s new fast-casual concept, U.S. Taco Co. and Urban Taproom, provides the chain an opportunity to move into fast casual while maintaining its identity and value positioning with existing customers in the quick-service segment. Many brands today are trying to shift toward a more upscale menu, food and atmosphere positioning, but this strategy can confuse loyal customers and make it difficult to stay true to the brand identity. Taco Bell’s strategy makes sense and supports its goal to increase sales from $7 to $14 billion in the U.S. market.

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So what are the challenges this new brand faces?

Competition: In addition to a strong independent Mexican restaurant market, today’s Mexican grill segment features strong category leaders like Chipotle Mexican Grill, Qdoba Mexican Grill and Moe’s Southwest Grill. And there are more than 50 other fast-casual chains competing for share of stomach, many of which are growing aggressively.

Also within the landscape are successful taco shops that are growing from regional roots in California and Texas like Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, Torchy’s Tacos and Chronic Tacos. The 2013 limited-service Mexican category totaled $18 billion in sales with more than 18,000 restaurants. With so many competitors in the space, finding room for U.S. Taco Co. will be a challenge for Taco Bell’s young “intrepreneurial” team.

Price: With price points per-person pegged at $11.50‒$12, many economically challenged consumers may not be able to afford to eat at U.S. Taco Co. on a frequent basis. Average fast-casual price points are still south of $10. And with average prices of fast-casual burritos in the $6‒$7 range, consumers will continue to see pound-for-pound value at Mexican grill concepts. Recent Technomic research with consumers indicated that the optimal price at fast casual for lunch was $7.60, with a high price threshold of about $10. At dinner, consumers indicated that $9 was the optimal price, with $12.50 providing the upper threshold limit. As a result, consumers will likely see this U.S. Taco Co. as a place to go for dinner, as its lunch prices are too high for many consumers on weekday occasions.

Menu: Many American consumers have come to expect high levels of “authenticity” around both Mexican and Southwest dishes, sides and beverages. The menu at U.S. Taco Co. will feature the following tacos:

  • The One Percenter, featuring fresh lobster in garlic butter with red cabbage slaw and pico de gallo on crispy fry bread.
  • The “Brotherly Love,” a nod to the Philly Cheesesteak, with carne asada steak, grilled peppers and onions, roasted poblano queso and cotija cheese (rather than Cheez Whiz), and fresh cilantro in a flour tortilla.
  • The “Winner Winner,” which features Southern-style fried chicken breast with “SOB,” or “South of the Border” gravy, roasted corn pico de gallo with fresh jalapenos, and fresh cilantro in a flour tortilla.

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And on the side, guests can get “papas fritas,” which resemble steak fries, coated with habanero dust and served with housemade dipping sauces such as ghost chile ketchup or roasted poblano crema. Guests can also order their fries loaded with taco ingredients sans tortilla as a “secret menu” option.

Taking a page out of Red Robin’s play book, the menu will include shakes spiked with beer, and the brand will eventually offer tap, can and bottled craft beer.

So how will consumers react?

Patience and education will be important to getting consumers to consider an even more Americanized version of a traditional, authentic Mexican taco. Replacing the American burger with a taco served with fries and a shake will be a new behavior for many Americans. Although this new offering will likely have great appeal for Millennial consumers age 21‒36, Gen X and Boomers will likely continue to lean toward more familiar and traditional meals. As innovation and thinking outside the box (or bun in this case) is essential for filling white space, this new format may be a bit ahead of its time.


Hot & Healthy; On the Menu: Chipotle Teaming Up with Oakland Tofu Company for a New Veggie Dish in Selected Markets

March 6, 2013

It’s an unlikely union: tofu and Mexican fast food. But a restaurant chain known for burritos the size of footballs and nighttime crowds of college students has teamed up with a small Oakland tofu company to use the vegetarian-friendly Bay Area as a testing ground for a new menu and image.

Starting Tuesday, Chipotle will add a new vegan burrito filler made with tofu from Oakland’s Hodo Soy to the menu at seven Bay Area restaurants. If diners approve, Chipotle says it will add the tofu dish, called Sofritas, to restaurants across the country, part of the company’s efforts to hone its reputation as healthier and more earth-friendly than its fast-food competitors. That move could also catapult Hodo Soy from a locally grown, 30-or-so-employee company into a major supplier for one of the country’s most popular quick-serve food chains.

But for Hodo Soy founder and chief executive officer Minh Tsai, the thrill of the new partnership is more about the opportunity to change tofu’s bad rap than the potential sales boost. He’s on a mission to demonstrate that tofu can taste better than the mushy, tasteless white cubes that gather dust on supermarket shelves.

“The win here is people will be exposed to tofu like they’ve never been,” said Tsai, 42, who models his recipe on the tofu he grew up eating in Vietnam.

But before Hodo Soy can change the minds of tofu skeptics everywhere, Bay Area vegetarians first have to approve of Chipotle’s new dish, which will compete with the likes of San Francisco’s Gracias Madre and Berkeley’s Flacos, popular vegan Mexican eateries, and dozens of veg-friendly taquerias in San Francisco’s Mission District — the very place Chipotle co-CEO Steve Ells began his culinary career. Chipotle will track sales for several weeks, but expectations are high.

The San Francisco Vegetarian Society has given Chipotle’s idea a thumbs ups, and the Maryland-based Vegetarian Resource Group, predicts the new dish will be a hit. John Cunningham, consumer research manager for the resource group, said Chipotle already has a loyal following of vegetarian customers who order meat-free versions of its tacos and burritos. The restaurant was hailed as the No. 1 choice among vegetarians for quick-serve food in a survey by Vegetarian Resource Group, which educates the public about vegetarianism.

It may not be the totem of health food — its chicken burrito has been named among the 20 worst foods in America for its high calorie and fat content — but Chipotle is a popular hangout and lunch spot for college students and millennials, among whom vegetarianism is most popular.

“This provides the type of alternatives” that vegans and vegetarians want, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president for Technomic, which studies food industry trends.

Chipotle joins a growing number of restaurants adding vegetarian and vegan items to their menu. Burger King has added a veggie burger, Subway tested vegan sandwiches and Smashburger won praise for its black bean burger. With more people going meat free, Cunningham said, restaurants without a veggie option are bound to lose business.

This isn’t Chipotle’s first try at pleasing the meatless crowd — it tested a vegan burrito a few years ago that was pulled from menus after even the company agreed it didn’t taste so good. The Bay Area is the obvious place for Denver-based Chipotle to try again.

“They’re definitely looking at a market with high concentration of vegan and vegetarian eaters,” said Angelica Pappas with the California Restaurant Association. “That’s smart. They’re going to see right away if there’s a demand for what they’re serving up.”

And the Bay Area sits conveniently between other prime vegetarian and vegan markets — Southern California, Portland and Seattle. If Chipotle passes muster in San Francisco, it likely will appeal too broader West Coast demographic, Tristano said

But don’t expect Chipotle to be the next vegan mecca. The company has made strides to debunk its image as just another fast-food restaurant — McDonald’s was its largest investor until 2006 — but it hasn’t been a smooth transition. Chipotle outraged vegetarians a couple years ago after customers discovered pork was added to a bean dish that had been passed off as vegetarian, and its 1,000-plus calorie burritos are shunned by some as worse for the waistline than a Big Mac.

“They’re moving in the right direction, but I don’t think most consumers think of them as healthy,” Tristano said. “Their target audience is still going to be a young male looking to a one and a quarter pound burrito packed with chicken and steak.”


FREEBIRDS named fastest-growing fast casual chain

December 17, 2012

FREEBIRDS has topped the Technomic Top 150 Fast Casual Chain Restaurant Report as the fastest growing fast casual chain of 2011. In 2011, FREEBIRDS saw a 63.2 percent year-over-year growth, adding 24 …

FREEBIRDS has topped the Technomic Top 150 Fast Casual Chain Restaurant Report as the fastest growing fast casual chain of 2011. In 2011, FREEBIRDS saw a 63.2 percent year-over-year growth, adding 24 restaurants to its existing 38 for a total of 62 locations. By the end of this year, FREEBIRDS will have opened an additional 28 company restaurants and three franchised restaurants, which should make it among the fastest-growing fast casual chains again in 2012, Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, said in a press release.

“In spite of difficult economic times, the Fast Casual Mexican Grill restaurant segment has continued to grow at a very rapid pace over the past five years through exciting regional brands,” he said. “FREEBIRDS World Burrito continues to be one of the fastest growing brands led by their rebellious energy, a fresh made-to-order menu and broad range of flavors. With the introduction of a franchising program this year, FREEBIRDS is poised to become a major national player in the U.S. Fast Casual Mexican segment.”

Momentum

Since Tavistock Restaurants purchased FREEBIRDS in 2007, the brand has quadrupled in size, doubling at the end of 2010, and doubling again by the end of 2012.

FREEBIRDS focused its 2009-2010 growth in Texas, and then started to expand to California in 2011-2012, opening 11 Southern California locations and 10 Northern California locations during that time.

In 2009, FREEBIRDS introduced FREEBIRDS World Works, the charity arm of the brand that inspires staff and guests to become active in their local communities by giving back through volunteer efforts. Each FREEBIRDS location is partnered with local, non-profit organizations to create awareness and help out where needed. The idea of activism resonates with guests and team members, and ultimately builds brand loyalty.

In 2012, FREEBIRDS began franchising for the first time in the brand’s 25-year history. FREEBIRDS signed its first franchise partner, FB Midwest Development, in March 2012. By committing to 27 restaurants, FB Midwest holds exclusive rights to territory that includes Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. FB Midwest has had two successful openings this year, and is slated to open three additional locations in the next four months.

This tremendous growth has required the company to open several restaurants in a single month, often opening two to three restaurants within a week of each other in different markets. In the last 30 months, FREEBIRDS has done it 17 times.

“Our ability to grow at this pace is really a testament to our people,” said FREEBIRDS President Jim Mizes. “Beyond building systems and infrastructure, we have invested in a talented team of construction, development, recruiting, operations and marketing people who work together to open in new and existing markets rather seamlessly.”


What’s for Lunch? Taco Bell’s New Cantina Bell Menu

October 25, 2012

Business First by Andrew Robinson

I purchased a chicken cantina bowl and a steak cantina burrito. Both were priced below $5, and the location I visited was running a buy-one-get-one-free promotion for the cantina items.

Both the bowl and burrito were comparable in size to what one could purchase at Qdoba Mexican Grill or Chipotle Mexican Grill.

The cilantro rice was flavorful, and I found the steak to be delicious. The chicken in the bowl lacked a little in flavor, but it came with a citrus and herb marinade that mixed well with the corn, chicken, guacamole and lettuce in the bowl.

For $2 more, I added chips and salsa and a medium beverage to my meal.

I don’t see Qdoba’s lunch lines getting shorter and Taco Bell’s getting longer with the menu additions, but I agree with food analyst Darren Tristano, who, in an interview with American Public Media’s “Marketplace” program, said he expects Taco Bell’s customers “to move up a rung, spend a little bit more, increase their check average and benefit the chain overall.”

Nancy Luna, a food reporter for The Orange County Register, even gave Taco Bell’s cantina burrito the nod over Chipotle’s.

I wouldn’t go as far as Luna in saying that Taco Bell’s burritos are better than Chipotle’s, but what I had at Taco Bell on Thursday certainly was an upgrade from Taco Bell’s familiar tacos, burritos and other items.

The Cantina Bell menu has been in the works since October 2010, and Taco Bell, a subsidiary of Louisville-based Yum Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM), has worked with chef Lorena Garcia to develop the menu, which also features guacamole and a number of salsas.

It will be interesting to see how the menu does in the Louisville market. Qdoba already has a strong hold on the market, with 13 locations, according to the company’s Web site, and Chipotle is expected to open a location downtown.


Taco Bell May be Taking on Chipotle with ‘Cantina Bell’ Menu

July 9, 2012

By Rob Neill, June 8, 2012, 7:43 am

First it was the cola wars, then the beer wars, and then the burger wars (OK, maybe not exactly in that order). Now let the burrito wars begin.

Taco Bell fired a salvo against Chipotle Wednesday, announcing a new “Cantina Bell” menu that seemed to take some cues from its pricier rival. The four new menu items would include ingredients new to Taco bell: Black beans, cilantro rice, citrus and herb marinated chicken, “new” guacamole, fire-roasted corn salsa, creamy cilantro dressing, and Pico de Gallo.

New menu items featuring the ingredients include bowls and burritos. The company is suggesting franchises sell chicken or veggie offerings for $4.79 and $4.99 for steak.

When asked if it was a challenge to Chipotle, company spokesman Rob Poetsch said it had to do with changing customer tastes.

“It’s really based on insights that we learned starting back in 2010,” Poetsch said. Customers were no longer looking “at food as fuel. They are now interested in new tastes and textures. We can offer these great textures and great flavors with the convenience of the Taco Bell drive-through.”

Taco Bell will have a better chance to sell up to current customers rather than take them away from Chipotle, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a food industry consulting group.

“What they’re trying to do it to move their menu to be more upscale, which will align with their competition like Chipotle,” he said. “I  think because of the number of (Taco Bells) they have a bigger opportunity to move their current customers up to a higher price point rather than take customers from Chipotle.”

Taco Bell is No. 1 in the “limited service Mexican” restaurant segment which takes in $13.5 billion a year in the U.S., with 50.4 percent of the business, Tristano said. Chipotle is second with 16.4 percent. But Taco Bell has slipped about 3 percent in the last year and Chipotle has gained about the same amount.

Taco Bell has about 6,000 restaurants in the U.S., Chipotle has about 1,200.

A Chipotle spokesman said the company didn’t see Taco Bell’s moves as a challenge.

“There’s a lot more to what we do than black beans and corn salsa,” said Chris Arnold. “What makes Chipotle work is more ingredients from sustainable sources with traditional cooking methods in a comfortable environment. There’s a lot of soul behind the menu.”

“It’s encouraging to see restaurants like Taco Bell improve what they’re offering,” he added

Taco Bell is touting that the new items were developed with chef Lorena Garcia, who has been on the reality competition “America’s Next Great Restaurant,” and will appear in Bravo’s upcoming “Top Chef Masters.”

The new items launch nationwide July 5. Poetsch said to expect more Cantina Bell items, since the category would a permanent addition. The company has been test marketing the items in Bakersfield, Calif., and Louisville, Ky., since January.

“You’re going to see a lot of expansion,” he said. “We’re committed to this long term.”

Taco Bell is owned by Yum! brands, which also owns KFC and Pizza Hut. Chipotle is an independent company that received a minority investment from McDonald’s, which has since divested itself of the company.