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A Canada-based Mexican chain that hopes to compete with the likes of Chipotle and Qdoba is making inroads into the U.S., starting with the Seattle area.
Mucho Burrito was founded in 2006 in Mississauga, Ontario, and has since grown to about 40 locations in Canada. To expand into the U.S. for the first time, the brand teamed with Subway franchisees Feisal Ramjee and Roy Woolsey.
Ramjee says there is still an opportunity to assert Mucho Burrito’s presence in the Mexican segment in Washington State because it is not yet very saturated with competitors.
“Chipotle has been very successful in the fresh Mexican grill segment, but in Washington, there are only 11 locations,” he says. “Seeing the opportunity for growth for a fresh Mexican grill, for a great product, Mucho Burrito definitely fit that bill.”
Ramjee says people in the Seattle area are very interested in a “good-quality, fresh, healthy food item.” Because Mucho Burrito is still small, he says, it prepares food the old-fashioned way.
“We’re still doing everything from scratch,” Ramjee says. “Our salsas, guacamole, everything like that, is all made fresh in-house daily.”
Woolsey was the first Subway franchisee in Washington, and says he’s approaching Mucho Burrito the same way he did Subway several years ago.
“We had to grow it organically from within, nobody knew what Subway was at that time,” he says. “I don’t see this as anything different. I think it all comes down to a good selection of franchisees, good locations.”
But Woolsey says Mucho Burrito may have a leg up on Subway in this phase of growth. “If you compare the two side by side as start-ups, this one is much further ahead out of the gates,” he says.
Woolsey and Ramjee have already opened two stores, one each in Lynnwood and Renton, Washington. Woolsey says the plan is to open four stores in 2012, and potentially six stores in 2013, all in Washington.
“It seems like it’s definitely working,” Ramjee says. “We’ve got two stores open, it’s only been a year, and we’ve gained some pretty good traction. We’ve got quite an incredible base of customers that we’ve already built in the locations that we’re at.”
By Sam Oches