Store and menu makeovers
In-store technology is also getting a boost. In 2019’s Q1, Fiesta rolled out point-of-sale tablets in stores to improve speed of service and ease of ordering, and the group will also begin testing kiosk ordering moving forward. And the in-store updates aren’t only digital. At the end of Q2, Fiesta had opened one new Pollo Tropical and three new Taco Cabana’s, leaving the group with two more Pollo Tropical stores to debut to achieve its 2019 growth plan.
About $3 million is also budgeted for remodeling projects between 10–13 restaurants in the remainder of 2019. These projects have just begun and will center on cosmetic improvements that are noticeable for guests—painting, new chairs and tables, improved lighting, etc. They will be implemented in the current and coming quarters to “better match interior to food quality,” Stockinger said.
Menu-wise, Fiesta spearheaded some liquid innovation in Q2 at Taco Cabana. The brand debuted its gold margarita with tequila during in honor of Cinco de Mayo plus a new Bacardi Gold Rum Runner cocktail. Blue margaritas on the rocks, frozen sangria swirls, and 60-ounce pitchers of beer on margaritas are some of the drinks in Taco Cabana’s test kitchen now, and menu development is extending past beverages; the brand is experimenting with adding carnitas, carne asada, and increasingly popular Beyond Meat products to its casual taco offerings, too.
Pollo Tropical also plans some updates for Q3 including new 24-hour citrus-marinated chicken wings, a honey lime chopped salad, a Cuban sandwich with grilled chicken or roast pork, Nutella-stuffed bananas, and a return of the Churrasco Steak TropiChop bowl.
In spite of Fiesta’s efforts with delivery, loyalty programs, store interiors, and menus, the group still touts a focus on value, and accessible price points figured heavily into Q2 for the group.
Fiesta’s goal of positioning Pollo Tropical as a strong B2B and B2C catering option pushed the brand to invest in some catering infrastructure during Q2, including catering hub units and new delivery vehicles.
Pollo Tropical launched the Parties by Pollo platform, a new catering menu, in July. The rebuilt list of offerings features lower prices for broader appeal, and aligns more closely with the brand’s retail menu. The new platform also places a greater emphasis on party platters of various sizes for family and other social gatherings. “While this program is still in its early innings, we are excited [about] the opportunities for catering programs going forward,” Stockinger said.
Taco Cabana’s catering program will follow Pollo Tropical’s lead in coming months; catering prices will be lowered and menu offerings will be realigned to fit more closely with the main menu. By the end of 2019, the group will have pumped about $1 million total into both of the brands’ catering programs.
Fiesta is also keeping its eyes on value with the brands’ main menus. Stockinger said that Taco Cabanas’ main focus was “value offerings” and, through its value platform Pollo Time, Pollo Tropical continued a Q1 deal during Q2 that offers a $3.99 quarter-chicken weekday lunch meal, a $5.99 half-chicken weekday dinner meal, and a $12.99 original family meal on weekends.
In Q2, Fiesta opened one Pollo Tropical in South Florida and one Taco Cabana in Texas. As of June 30, there were 140 company-owned Pollo Tropical restaurants, 165 corporate Taco Cabanas, 31 franchised Pollo Tropicals in the U.S., Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Guyana, and Panama, and eight domestic franchised Taco Cabanas.