NZ Welcomes Mexican Evolution

Mexicali Fresh’s first franchisee is opening another – and another

If there are two hot trends in the food business in New Zealand today, they are the growing popularity of Mexican food and the rise of fast-casual dining – an upmarket version of traditional quick service restaurants which combine a counter service model with a more premium product and environment. Mexicali Fresh has been at the forefront of both, with nine locations already open in Auckland and more to come all over New Zealand.

Keith Huckaby was quick to spot the potential of Mexicali Fresh. The Californian knows all about good brands – he came to New Zealand with his wife in 2010 after a career which included a spell with Taco Bell, a role in national operations training with Burger King, and operations management with Walt Disney theme parks.

‘When we came here, I started consulting to The Warehouse while I looked at things I’d like to get into. I decided a franchise would be best – it’s just too hard to start from scratch, and too hard to import a concept from overseas – and then I saw Mexicali Fresh. I rang them up to ask if they were franchising and they said, “Well, we’re thinking about it – let us take your number.” Five months later they called me back!’

Keith went to check out the Mexicali Fresh operation. ‘Coming from Walt Disney, which is renowned for the quality of its training, it takes a lot to impress me but Mexicali managed it. So many franchises don’t match up when it comes to documentation, systems, processes and all that, but Mexicali did. I was the first franchisee, opening in New Lynn in September 2013 and it’s gone so well I’m opening a second in Mission Bay in a couple more months. Hopefully, there’ll be a third one after that.

die-hard fans

The very first Mexicali Fresh opened on Princes Wharf in Auckland back in 2005. The ‘build your own’ formula enabled customers to choose a burrito, nachos or quesadilla and combine signature made-from-scratch ingredients. With a colourful, casual atmosphere, a great selection of Mexican beer and tequilas and amazing frosty Margaritas, Mexicali Fresh quickly became the place for family and friends to gather and make memories.

 ‘We grill and roast our meats, chop our salsas and fry our tortilla chips up fresh every day to give our diners the most authentic California-style experience in New Zealand,’ Conor Kerlin, the ‘Brand Dude’of Mexicali Fresh, says proudly.

‘As a result, wherever we’ve opened we’ve amassed a die-hard, loyal following thanks to our laid-back vibe, passionate staff, hand-crafted food and freedom of choice. We bring our fans together online as well as in-store via a hugely successful social media strategy, and they only have one complaint – they want more Mexicalis around the country!’

tried-and-tested systems

The Mexicali Fresh business model is based upon comprehensive yet simple management and operational systems that reflect years of tried-and-tested experience. The franchise has been developed with the assistance of the multi-award-winning team at Franchize Consultants, and as the company prepares to go national it has appointed one of the country’s most experienced franchise managers, Nathan Bonney, to spearhead the growth.

‘Mexicali Fresh is a fantastic brand in a category which is really heating up in New Zealand,’ says Nathan, who was previously with Columbus Coffee for 12 years. ‘Fast casual dining gives people the eating-out experience at a reasonable price. The availability of healthy, fresh, Mexican food, with soft drinks or a beer if you want it, makes it popular with groups, kids and couples alike. It’s creating a whole new destination in itself.

‘Mexicali Fresh is growing rapidly now and is uniquely positioned to make the most of opportunities throughout New Zealand. It has a management team experienced in every aspect of the operation and is well-capitalised, enabling us to select great franchisees and support them to grow their businesses from day one.’

passionate about food & service

Mexicali Fresh is looking for enthusiastic, energetic people who are passionate about great food and excellent customer service to take the franchise nationwide. Current stores range in size from 110-210 sqm, some with outdoor seating areas, and all are fully-licensed. Depending upon size and location, the investment required starts from around $300,000 +gst. ‘This opportunity is great for the individual or family operator, and also suits the seasoned hospitality professional like Keith who has the capacity to manage multiple franchises based on proven systems,’ says Cindy Buell, the franchise’s co-founder and recruitment manager.

Keith agrees. ‘Mexicali Fresh is a great concept – there’s a real buzz about it and people get excited and tell their friends. That brings people through the door then it’s your job to create the vibe and deliver on the promise. If that appeals to you, do your due diligence and see if it stacks up for you.’

To find out more about Mexicali Fresh and nationwide opportunities in the rapidly-growing fast casual restaurant sector, contact Cindy Buell today.

This advertorial is taken from Franchise New Zealand magazine Volume 23 Issue 3

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