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Barberitos: Bigger Than a Burrito, “Changing the world one burrito at a time”

For the past 14 years, Barberitos has been home to “Big Burritos” and “Farm Fresh Ingredients.” These well-known monikers have helped the popularity of the brand to grow immensely. The franchise has expanded from one Downtown Athens, GA location into 56 franchised locations to date and 14 more signed to open in the near future. While the big burritos and farm fresh ingredients will always be apart of Barberitos, the Southwestern franchise is ready to share what the culture of Barberitos is really about. Many may wonder what sets Barberitos apart from other Southwestern quick serve restaurants in the industry. Though the made in-house daily salsas, chips, and proteins may play an instrumental part in differentiating the establishments, the franchise likes to think the biggest difference is that all franchised locations are locally owned and operated. Barberitos believes that being locally owned helps create ties and make an impact on each individual community. Every month, all Barberitos locations strive to live “Bigger Than a Burrito.” Bigger than a Burrito is what the franchise likes to call it’s community involvement and spontaneous random acts of kindness. This initiative is meant to show that the Barberitos culture is more than just about making burritos, but it is also about giving back. Each Barberitos host percentage nights throughout the month to help raise money for local organizations, schools, or others who are in need. Food donations, sponsorships, and cash donations are additional ways that Barberitos owners try to give back to the community. Barberitos makes it a point to invest in the community, but in the people of its community, as well. Many Barberitos owners have made it a priority to offer local jobs to their area. The franchise believes strongly in the investment and development of the younger generation; Barberitos provides an after school environment for kids to learn and grow their skills beyond the classroom. Food preparation, interpersonal communication, management, and relationship building skills are a few of the things an individual will become experienced in at Barberitos. When an individual dines at Barberitos, they are not only benefiting the local establishment, but also the local community as well. Each burrito sold helps give back to the people, organizations, and schools of each local area. At the end of the day can a burrito change the world? Barberitos thinks it can, one burrito at a time.

Tagged: Community, Barberitos, Burritos, Tacos, Quesadillas, Mexican, Fastcasual

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Barberitos: Fast-casual Mexican chain's chief exec says opportunities for expansion are starting to heat up again

Apr 5, 2010

Despite continuing economic weakness, Downing Barber says it’s time to resume growing Barberitos, the fast-casual, fresh-Mex concept he founded 10 years ago. The 22-unit chain, which Barber launched in Athens, Ga., in January 2000, specializes in cooked-to-order Mexican food. The newest unit opened in Roswell, Ga., in December 2009, and Barber anticipates opening more company locations this year. Only two units are currently corporately owned. Barberitos’ food appeals to a variety of customers, including meat lovers and vegans, calorie counters, and fans of hearty Mexican fare. Menu items include a variety of salads, burritos, fajitas, tacos and quesadillas. The average check is about $7. Although two units are licensed to sell alcoholic beverages, alcohol sales are not the chain’s primary objective, he said. The concept is geared toward family diners. Barber discovered his passion for Mexican food while living in Colorado and decided to take the cuisine to Georgia. “At the time, there wasn’t great demand for the burrito business on the East Coast, especially in Georgia,” he said. “This type of restaurant, with its healthy food, really attracted me.” Ten years and 22 stores later, Barberitos has weathered many storms—including the current recession and, more recently, the tomato freeze in Florida that wiped out the region’s harvest and caused tomato prices to more than quadruple. “It’s been tough,” Barber said. “But we’re surviving. We tried to buy as many [tomatoes] as we could from the last truck out of Florida. But right now we’re taking it on the chin waiting for a new harvest to come in.” Barber said renegotiating his purchasing contracts has put the chain in a stronger place financially. “We locked in contracts on beef, rice, beans, cheese and sour cream before the crisis happened, so our costs are lower,” he said. “If we keep operating in the same way, we’ll have a very positive future.” Despite competition from such heavy hitters as Chipotle and Qdoba, the fast-casual Mexican segment is a good place to be, said Ron Paul, president and chief executive of Technomic, a Chicago-based market research firm. “Americans, not just Latins, like the food and are looking for more options,” he said. “Fresh is definitely seen as healthy. It certainly is looked upon as a trade-up from quick serve, and people are willing to spend considerably more for it.” Barberitos also faces competition from Moe’s Southwest Grill, a 400-unit chain based in Atlanta and owned by Focus Brands Inc. Barberitos’ sales currently are flat, but franchisees are increasing their community involvement in a bid to boost sales. “People are more receptive to those who give back during hard times,” Barber said. “We’re trying to gain the loyalty of our customers by helping out. We’re trying to turn a negative situation into a positive one as best we can.” As lenders loosen their grip on financing, Barber said he is ready to resume franchising to take advantage of both real estate opportunities and the wealth of people interested in owning businesses. “We’re looking to grow again,” he said. “We had been, but the tough economic times came and hindered us. Now, though, it seems as if institutions are lending again, but with tougher regulations.” He added, “There are a lot of people who are out of work and interested in getting into Barberitos to supplement their careers. We’re going to choose from a lot of different people. We prefer to teach them our way anyway so there are no bad habits. We’re basically looking for people who have the capital to open and operate stores.” Barber said stores cost between $250,000 and $300,000, depending on the build-out. The cost is considerably lower, he added, if the location is in an existing restaurant, which costs between $100,000 and $150,000. Franchise fees and royalty rates are $20,000 and 5 percent, respectively.

Tagged: nations restaurant news, barberitos franchising, franchise opportunities, restaurant franchise, barberitos southwestern grille and cantina, fresh mex, fast casual


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