Barberitos Restaurant Chain Plans Augusta Expansion

Anyone with a hankering for a Barberitos “Skinny” burrito or “Heavy D” salsa will soon have more than one location in metro Augusta to choose from.

An investment group says it plans to develop three franchises to complement the Athens, Ga.-based Tex-Mex chain’s corporate-owned restaurant near the Augusta Exchange shopping center.

The first of the new Bar­be­ritos Southwestern Grille & Cantinas will be in Evans at the Publix-anchored Evans Towne Cen­ter shopping center at 4272 Wash­ing­ton Road, said franchisee Brett McCullough, the operating partner of HMS3 LLC.

McCullough and his Athens-based investors, Cis­sy Hutch­inson and L. Lanier Scruggs III, the latter of whom is an Augusta native, have not finalized real estate for the other restaurants.

 

“We are looking aggressively for a second location on the west side of Augusta,” McCullough said. “So hopefully, we’ll have resolution on that in the next 30 days.”

The Evans restaurant will be in a corner storefront previously occupied by the Viet Royal Vietnamese restaurant. Unlike the Augusta location, it will feature a 400-square-foot indoor/outdoor patio and the company’s new interior motif.

“You’re going to see a much more appealing look in the dining area,” McCullough said. “It’s a little brighter and a little more current.”

Barberitos was founded in downtown Athens in 1999 by Downing Barber, who still serves as the company’s CEO. The quick-serve, made-to-order Mexican grill concept now has 62 restaurants in Georgia, the Carolinas, Flori­da and Tennessee.

Barber said the Augusta expansion is part of an initiative to bring the chain to 100 shops.

 

“We have no timetable,” Barber said during a telephone interview Monday. “We will be expanding more rapidly, but not gangbusters. We don’t want to overgrow the company. We want to keep the core values and stick to what works for us.”

With competitors ranging from local chains such as Diablo’s, major regional players such as Atlanta-based Moe’s Southwest Grill and national giants such as Taco Bell, Barberitos markets itself on the quality of its restaurants and not the quantity.

“We’re still committed to fresh food, and we make it daily,” Barber said.

McCullough is an Athens restaurateur and has more than 30 years of industry experience working for multilocation brands such as Chili’s, On the Border and Steak & Ale. He will oversee the day-to-day operations of the restaurants while Hutchison and Scruggs, financial advisers for Synovus Securities Inc., an affiliate of Athens First Bank & Trust, will act as silent partners. Scruggs is a 1990 graduate of Westside High School.

Each restaurant will have about two dozen, mostly part-time, positions, McCullough said.

 

He said he expects the Evans restaurant will benefit greatly from the completion of the River Watch Parkway extension, which will empty out at Washington Road at Towne Center Drive. But he said the company wouldn’t be expanding in Augusta if the existing restaurant hadn’t performed so well during the past decade.

“The corporate store has been there a long time and does well,” he said. “We feel the brand awareness is good and certainly Augusta has the size and demographics to support several more stores.”