Through the years, restaurants have paired the ubiquitous ground beef patty on a bun with a host of other menu items—french fries, hot dogs, milkshakes, and chicken nuggets, to name a few—but as far as three Florida cousins are concerned, pinchos are a burger’s best friend.
Pinchos, or grilled meat kebobs, were the culinary specialty of Otto Othman’s mom, while his cousin Nedal Ahmad was the Miami family’s official burger chef. While consuming both foods at a Fourth of July barbecue, Othman, Ahmad, and the latter’s brother, Nizar Ahmad, began kicking around an idea that would eventually become Pincho Factory.
Othman acknowledges that a bit of beer fueled the dream of combining burgers and pinchos as they set out to create the concept despite a complete lack of restaurant experience. Othman did have advertising and marketing experience, and Nedal Ahmad was naturally good at putting flavors together. All three, he says, were wise enough to seek out mentors along the way. Today, Nedal Ahmad is CEO, Othman is CMO, and Nizar Ahmad is director of training.
Nedal Ahmad says Miami didn’t need another burger joint, and he and his cofounders wanted to attract a broader audience while still keeping the concept simple. He says Pincho Factory is a place that serves “elevated street food in a fast casual 2.0 setting.”
“A large percentage of our guests dine with us multiple times a week or month,” Ahmad says. “It’s not a huge menu, but there are lots of variations possible.”
He says the combination of pinchos and burgers doesn’t feel forced, and Pincho Factory sells a pretty even number of both. Chicken sandwiches round out the menu, along with add-ons like fries, sweet potato tots, and fried plantains called Tostones. There is also a Chalkboard Special that changes monthly.
Guests who order pinchos select chicken, steak, or shrimp, then decide if they want their grilled meat in a pita wrap, rice bowl, or salad. Finally, they pick their seasoning style from options like Tropical, Latin, Chipotle, or Fresco. All of the sauces are made in house.
Burgers range from a simple cheeseburger on a brioche bun to more complex flavors like the Bacon N Blue Burger topped with Gorgonzola cheese, bacon, buffalo sauce, and caramelized onions. Probably the most unusual item on the menu is the Toston Burger, which substitutes fried plantains for the bun. Ahmad once cooked Toston burgers on “The Today Show” for Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb to rave reviews.
“Serving shredded beef between plantains is a traditional dish in the Caribbean,” Ahmad says. “When our sales were terrible in the beginning, we had to pound the pavement to come up with new ideas, and my wife created this burger.”
The beef used in all Pincho Factory burgers is fresh, not frozen, and is certified humanely raised, antibiotic- and hormone-free, and sourced from a select 250 U.S. family farms.
The Pincho Factory veggie burger, made with a patty of black beans and sweet potato, was no afterthought, either. “The vegetarian market is not a submarket of a submarket any longer,” Ahmad says. “It’s becoming extremely mainstream, and you need to give it as much thought as anything else on the menu, so it took a year to come up with a great veggie burger that we could make with ingredients already in house. Now it’s over 3 percent of our sales.”
FOUNDERS: Otto Othman,
Nedal Ahmad, & Nizar Ahmad
YEAR STARTED: 2010
ANNUAL SALES: $10.5 million
TOTAL UNITS: 7
FRANCHISED UNITS: 3
The atmosphere is also a key consideration. Ahmad says the team has meetings about music. And because Pincho Factory leans on the premium side of fast casual, it is important that staff brings food and drink refills to customers’ tables.
The result of premium fast-casual service, he says, is “phenomenal” dinner sales. Because of the atmosphere, service, and availability of beer and wine, the lunch/dinner split at Pincho Factory is almost even.
Ahmad says alcohol accounts for as much as 7 percent of sales at some locations. “We put a lot of thought into beer selection,” he says. “They rotate and vary by location based on an area’s drinking habits.”
One of those selections includes a beer Wynwood Brewing Co. brewed just for them, called 627 Ale. The name comes from a story the founders tell about how when they opened their first location, Ahmad’s bank account was down to his last $6.27.
Pincho Factory guests can also order a bottle of wine with dinner, giving a fast-casual meal an upscale dining feel. Alcohol sales and strong dinner numbers have increased Pincho Factory’s per-person average ticket to around $13.
Pincho Factory has locations in both the Miami and Orlando, Florida, areas. While three are franchised units, the focus is on developing more corporate stores. The brand has 15 units under development with plans to first saturate Florida. A typical location is around 2,100 square feet, with seating for about 60.
No matter how many Pincho Factory locations open, the three cofounders hope to maintain the spirit of their family barbecue that inspired the idea. “The day this stops being fun is when the whole thing is for sale,” Ahmad says.