Tortilla expansion 'on track' as company reveals greater focus on evening trade

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Tortilla, Burrito

Expanding burrito restaurant group Tortilla, which recently opened a new site on the Strand, is planning to improve its appeal to diners looking for an evening meal
Expanding burrito restaurant group Tortilla, which recently opened a new site on the Strand, is planning to improve its appeal to diners looking for an evening meal
Brandon Stephens, founder of fast-casual burrito restaurant group Tortilla, has told BigHospitality that expansion plans for the 11-strong chain remain 'roughly on track' as the company looks to develop a larger evening trade with a higher-quality drinks offer.

Tortilla, which last year secured new bank financing from Santander,​ is on track to open six or seven new restaurants in 2013 with a similar number planned for next year. 

While a number of the forthcoming openings will be in the capital, the company is increasingly looking to regional cities for new sites. “It is easy to manage stores in central London but it is very difficult and expensive to secure those stores," Stephens said. "Outside of London it is easier to find locations but then it is harder to manage them," he added.

However Tortilla has recently taken on a number of head office staff to make day-to-day operations smoother and to aid the company's planned 'rapid' expansion. With a team of 16 now working centrally for the firm, the entrepreneur believes he has the right amount of staff to support provincial growth.

Tortilla will open a store later this year in Leeds and is also eyeing up new sites in Birmingham, Manchester, Brighton and Cardiff. "I don’t think we have remotely hit saturation," Stephens claimed, referring to both his group and the burrito market.

Evening

As the company looks to move to the next stage of its development - Stephens was once told the hardest restaurants to open were the first, 7th, 17th and 77th - Tortilla has spent cash in refreshing its menus and marketing materials.

Stephens explained they had done so for a number of reasons: to tell the story of the burrito, highlight the influence of the US on the dish and to explain the provenance and freshness of Tortilla's product, but also to increase the appeal of the firm to evening diners or those who might be put off from buying a burrito regularly because of health or nutrition reasons.

“A lot of people have this misperception that burritos are really heavy and really fattening," he explained. "Without naming names our burritos have as much fat as products from a large sandwich chain. This can be an everyday type of option," he added.

“We are looking to get people back for repeat business at lunch but we are also looking at increasing the sales in the evening," Stephens continued.

"We have put a lot of work into the design of our shops to make them a bit more lunch/dinner neutral which I think is somewhat unique among the burrito operators, introducing things that make customers more inclined to want to hang out in the evening, have a beer and chill out.

“We are planning to focus even more on ambience in the evening – we have slushy margaritas but we want to go with a higher-quality set of margaritas in the future,” he concluded.

Related topics: Business, Venues, Restaurants

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