Prezzo chief executive: Openings focus moving to Chimichanga

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: High street, Restaurant

Chimichanga, the Mexican restaurant brand from the Prezzo restaurant group, is expected to become the focus of the group's expansion plans
Chimichanga, the Mexican restaurant brand from the Prezzo restaurant group, is expected to become the focus of the group's expansion plans
Jonathan Kaye, chief executive of the Prezzo restaurant group, has told BigHospitality an increasing percentage of its future openings will be under the Chimichanga Mexican restaurant brand.

Chimichanga, which was founded by Prezzo in Braintree in 2004, now has 20 restaurants around the UK with openings lined up in Amersham, Ealing and Watford.

10 a year

"The ratio will be moving in Chimichanga’s favour," Kaye told BigHospitality when asked about future group openings.

"It will still be predominantly Prezzo because that is our main brand and where our main source of expansion will be but this year we will have doubled the Chimichanga estate and we have a lot more confidence in it – going forward we could move up to 10 new sites a year."

Speaking as Prezzo described trading conditions as 'challenging' in its half year financial results, Kaye said the success of the Mexican brand had defied perceptions and expectations of which locations would best suit a Chimichanga restaurant.

"There is more understanding around the country about Mexican food and for us what started out opportunistically as a leisure complex operation has proved successful on the high street which has given us confidence to roll it out."

Originally the Essex-based firm founded by Kaye picked leisure complex locations and places where a Prezzo was already successful. However the Chimichanga brand development is now focused on high street locations and market towns - recent new sites have included restaurants in Bournemouth, Bromley and Crawley.

Mexican

The growth in Mexican concepts at a number of price levels is well-reported but the restaurateur denied that they had been a big impact on the brand.

"When people talk about Mexican concepts they talk about burrito bars, which is a completely different market in a completely different environment – the city or central London, or they are talking about Wahaca which are not one-offs but they are limited in their scope for expansion."

Of greater importance, Kaye said, was the growth in understanding of the cuisine and improvements that had been made to the Chimichanga product staff training and restaurant design.

"We are the only ones taking it to the high street," he argued.

Hindrance

In the 26 weeks to 1 July Prezzo reported a 4 per cent increase in pre-tax profit to £7.6m with the company on-track to take its total portfolio to near the 200 mark before the end of the year.

Despite describing the big calendar events in 2012 as a 'hindrance' to performance and confirming his chairman's view that conditions remain challenging with no recovery on the horizon, Kaye denied the company would scale back its expansion plans unless the situation worsened significantly.

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