Tex-Mex QSR Chain BarBurrito Surpasses 250 Locations with Plans for Coast-to-Coast Canadian Expansion [Interview]


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BarBurrito, the largest quick service Tex-Mex restaurant chain in Canada, recently opened its 250th franchise location in the town of Edson, Alberta and then continued right after that with more openings as the brand aggressively rolls out from coast to coast.

Jeff Young, BarBurrito’s Chief Business Development Officer, said with 250-plus stores coast to coast the brand is the market leader as Canada’s largest and fastest growing Mexican food franchise.

“We’ll see another 90 units open this year. We’ve got strong demand for the franchise program not only with new franchisees coming on board but also with existing franchise partners,” he said.

Image: BarBurrito

“We’re also seeing tremendous growth south of the border. In 2020, we opened our first unit in the United States under the brand BurritoBar. So we pivoted on the name because of some trademark restrictions. We now have two units open in Michigan. Construction to start soon for a third location. We’ll be starting construction soon in Delaware.

Jeff Young

“We’ve done a number of single and multi-unit deals throughout the entire United States throughout a number of States, really from coast to coast. What we’re particularly excited about is the interest in our master franchise program and we are in quite advanced conversations with a lot of very sophisticated franchise groups who are interested in becoming our masters with actually quite a number of States and territories throughout the United States.”

The brand currently has 255 locations as of April 24.

Colette MacLean, VP of Marketing, for BarBurrito, said the brand’s first location opened in 2005 in Toronto. The first franchise location opened in 2009.

Colette MacLean

“And from there it was really exponential growth,” she said. “Hit 50 locations in 2017 and then it was 100 in 2019 then 150 in 2021 and the big year was last year when we actually opened 75 locations in 2022,” she said.

“We’re going to hit well over 300 before the end of the year probably.”

MacLean said there are a number of reasons why Canadian consumers love the brand including the freshness of the food and its variety as well as the company’s loyalty program which is unmatched by other brands as to how many times a customer has to visit in order to get some free food.

The franchise, which is comprised of locally-owned and family-operated locations, serves fresh ingredients and offers vegan, keto, and gluten-free options.

Image: BarBurrito

Young said a typical size for a BarBurrito is anywhere from 1,000 square feet to 1,500 square feet with the average about 1,200 square feet.

“We’ve seen particular success with grocery-anchored shopping centres and in particular we’ve seen tremendous success in the smaller communities. Where the Chipotle’s of the world will focus on the major metropolitan areas, we’ve seen very, very good success in tertiary markets, even markets as small as 10,000 population or less,” he said.

Young said real estate decisions are made on strong signage in areas, good accessibility, and good tenancies.

“We want to be in strong retail nodes,” he said. “We do particularly well in the suburban communities where there’s lots of rooftops and I think the fact we do anywhere from 20 to 25 per cent of our business through the delivery aggregators that really lends itself towards that. That’s a particularly important area of our business which also speaks to the fact that traditional malls do not work simply because the delivery aggregators do not service food courts necessarily. What we’ve seen over the last several years is traffic count dwindling in malls.

“So that’s where the suburban, tertiary markets have served really, really well with our brand.”

barBurrito Interior (Image: barBurrito)

Young said the company sees huge opportunity in the Quebec market. It currently has three stores in operation in that province including downtown Montreal.

“It’s a big and important market for us. So we are market ready. We see a lot of upside potential in Quebec, in particular,” he said.

“All the 250-plus stores we have are traditional stores – a traditional in-line part of a shopping centre environment with seating. Where we’re getting a lot of activity and interest in our business is in the non-traditional channels. What I mean by that is the petroleum channel with a (convenience) store component to it, campus settings, airports, hospitals and this is where I see a lot of significant growth in the future in addition to our traditional model.”

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.


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