NZ Ready for Mexican Wave

The fast-casual dining concept has made Mexicali Fresh an Auckland favourite – now it’s going national

Mexicali Fresh brought big American-style burritos and frozen margaritas to the Kiwi landscape in 2005 with the launch of its first restaurant at Princes Wharf on Auckland’s waterfront. Now the company is offering motivated and ambitious people the opportunity to become a part of this rapidly-evolving Kiwi success story.

Mexicali Fresh is a family-owned-and-operated business led by brothers Conor and Tyler Kerlin. The driven and passionate pair are continuing a successful 35-year family tradition of managing some of the hottest Mexican restaurants in the United States.

 ‘After eight years of business, we know we’ve got a winning formula,’ Conor Kerlin says. ‘We’ve amassed a die-hard following thanks to our laid-back vibe, loyal staff, hand-crafted food and freedom of choice. Our customers have just one complaint – they want more places around the country to get their Mexicali fix!’

Mexicali Fresh currently has locations in Auckland: Princes Wharf,  Nuffield Street in Newmarket and Karangahape Road, and has three additional sites under development. The goal is to open 40 Mexicali Fresh restaurants in the next five years. Current stores range in size from 110-210 sqm with substantial outdoor seating areas being desirable. All are fully-licensed.

an authentic heritage

Franchise New Zealand recently identified the fast casual sector as one of the ‘next big things’ in franchising. Fast casual restaurants don’t offer full table service, but promise higher quality food and a great dining experience. ‘Today, consumers still want their food fast, but they also want it healthy and at great value,’ explains Conor. ‘And that’s just what Mexicali Fresh delivers – along with a helping of authentic California culture.’

Mexicali founder John Buell was a San Francisco hippie living in an abandoned school bus back in Lake Tahoe in the early 1970s when he got a job in a new Mexican restaurant. The recipes were straight out of East LA, the food was a hit and the place became an instant landmark. John took the concept to New York City and then the Pacific Northwest, where casual fine-dining restaurant Mexicali Rose was born.

‘Throughout the years Mexicali has been paving the way, first with Mexicali Rose, then with a counter service restaurant Baja Norte, and finally the fast-casual model that operates today in Mexicali Fresh restaurants,’ says Conor. ‘Those first traditional recipes from a genuine Mexican-American family are still used today at every Mexicali Fresh. We grill and roast our meats, hand-chop our salsas and fry our tortilla chips up fresh every day to give our diners the most authentic California-style Mexican experience in New Zealand.’

secret to success

Mexicali Fresh’s success is due to its continued focus on the well-being and motivation of its employees and the high standard of food and service delivered to its customers. All of this is supported by comprehensive yet simple business management and operational systems that reflect years of tried-and-tested experience both in New Zealand and in the US. The franchise model has also been developed with the assistance of the multi-award-winning team at Franchize Consultants.

‘We have a committed management team supported by a healthy balance sheet and strong capital investment,’ Conor says. In 2012, ihug co-founder and entrepreneur Tim Wood acquired a stake in Mexicali Fresh, following several visits to the restaurant where he became ‘completely addicted’ to the chicken taco salad.

‘Fast-casual food with a Mexican twist is such a great model – it’s perfect for hungry kids after soccer, girls out for frozen margaritas or office workers wanting a quick and tasty lunch,’ says Tim. ‘It’s a fantastic product that has huge expansion potential with a little help around growth and delivery strategies. I was naturally keen to partner with the family to take Mexicali Fresh to the next level.’

the opportunity

Mexicali Fresh is now looking for enthusiastic, energetic people who are passionate about great food and excellent customer service to take the franchise nationwide. Depending upon size and location, the investment required starts from around $300,000 +gst. ‘This opportunity is great for a family team dedicated to building a rewarding lifestyle, or perfect for the seasoned hospitality professional who has the capacity to manage multiple franchises based on proven systems,’ Conor suggests.

‘Mexicali Fresh secures favourable leases for its franchisees, fits out the premises in our colourful and unique style, purchases and installs all restaurant equipment and computer technology, and trains the franchisee and their manager in our proven systems. We offer continuing in-store and system-wide marketing and management support, along with cutting edge digital menu displays, POS and back office systems to help achieve results above industry-average.

‘If you want to be part of the fast-casual insurgence in New Zealand and reap the rewards of owning a franchise with an established, well-resourced and successful business model, then contact Mexicali Fresh today.’

Franchise New Zealand magazine Volume 22 Issue 2

Luc Identity