4 smokin’ hot Mexican fast food franchises

By Nick Hall | 16 Mar 2020 View comments

Mexican-inspired chains aren’t just featuring on the franchise market, they are driving it.

So who are the big players making moves on the Mexican market?

4 Mexican fast food chains to consider

Taco Bell

A soft launch in Brisbane meant third-time really is the charm for iconic US franchise Taco Bell. Two failed starts in Australia, including a high-profile exit in the late 1990s, hampered growth for the Tex-Mex giant, however a surge in American fast food has handed Taco Bell a new lease on life.

From open-air kitchens to USB charging stations and kiosk ordering, Taco Bell’s Aussie approach was a direct reflection of the chain’s US heritage.

“We really came at it this time with the intention of making sure we laid a really solid foundation,” Taco Bell Asia Pacific managing director Ankush Tuli says.

“That led to some exciting growth, we found the perfect partners in Brisbane and that success gave us the confidence to expand into other areas.”

Alongside operator Restaurant Brands, Taco Bell unveiled the first of its outlets in NSW in December 2019..

A Blacktown restaurant followed quickly after, bringing Taco Bell’s NSW sites to two, but that was just the start for the US mega-chain. With an estimated $65 million commitment from partner Restaurant Brands, it won’t be long before you see the iconic purple bell on every corner. 

Mad Mex

It’s a similar story for Aussie-born business Mad Mex. After over a decade on the quick service restaurant (QSR) scene, the chain is breaking the shackles of the domestic market in search of greener pastures.

In 2018, Singapore-based chicken chain 4Fingers acquired a 50 per cent stake in the company, signalling that growth across both Australia and Asia was on the cards.

Twelve months on, and Mad Mex is ticking off goals as it goes. A new repositioning strategy, the brand’s first in 10 years, solidified Mad Mex as a household name in healthy fast-food operation. The “Fresh Food for Life” update showcased the chain’s dedication to healthy flavours and natural ingredients. 

With a fresh branding and partner on board, Mad Mex was perfectly placed to take the next step in its journey, launching an inaugural restaurant in Singapore, with Malaysian expansion following soon after.

Clovis Young, founder and CEO, says “South-East Asia is in the midst of a food revolution towards healthy eating, and we believe Mad Mex’s healthy and quality positioning will resonate with local customers. We are very excited by the opportunity and we have big plans for the next five years.”

At its annual conference in Fiji, the founder and CEO revealed that Mad Mex had secured its biggest year to date, reporting a 6.5 per cent rise in like-for-like sales, following 70 weeks of sales growth in Australia.

The Burrito Bar

Since 2011 the San Francisco-inspired Mexican chain amassed a cult-like following, growing from three restaurants to 31. Following a strategic restructure to focus on franchisee profitability, the chain has seen same restaurant year-on-year growth continuing to average over 40 per cent.

Burrito Bar general manager Shaun Butcher says “We are currently planning on building more diversity and flexibility into our brand and model to ensure we can better cater to a full range of people, including takeaway customers, online and app customers, drive-thru customers and third party aggregator customers.”

The biggest strength for the Bay Area-style Mexican chain is the full-service kitchen, which Butcher says enables franchisees to create a large and diverse menu, cook to order and enhance the flavour profiles customers have come to love.

“Having spent the time since mid-2018 focusing on the sales and profitability of our existing franchise partners, along with optimising our model, support structure, systems and processes we are confident that 2020 is the year to start focusing on growing restaurant numbers again.

“We will also explore new avenues to provide Burrito Bar to more people through enhancing our online ordering, introducing an app, and evolving our restaurant model to prosper in drive-thru and regional environments.”

Guzman y Gomez

Australia’s largest Mexican franchise Guzman y Gomez also announced a healthy business update last year.

 A new “100 per cent clean” menu, three years in the making, saw the chain drop added preservatives, artificial flavours, added colours and unacceptable additives from its food.

“Our menu and processes are constantly evolving in response to global best-practice and, most importantly, customer demand,” Steven Marks, Guzman y Gomez founder and global CEO says.

“After extensive research into consumer attitudes and trends towards food, and ongoing feedback from our guests, it’s become clear that clean is the new healthy.”

The business worked alongside independent nutritionist Sarah Patterson of The Nutrition Providers to develop the new menu, utilising the international food guidelines laid out by the World Health Organization.

It was a monster undertaking for the Tex-Mex giant. Guzman y Gomez negotiated with several of its existing suppliers to change their products to meet the strict guidelines, in some cases even teaming up with new partners.

“Australians should never have to compromise on quality and eating whole real foods, even when it comes to fast food,” Marks says