Industry veteran Phil Friedman acquired the Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina fast-casual Mexican restaurant chain. Salsarita’s will be owned by Salsarita’s Holdings LLC, a company formed and controlled by Friedman, who serves as CEO. Larry Reinstein will join Salsarita’s Holdings as president and chief operating officer.

Operating in the dynamic and growing fast-casual Mexican category, Salsarita’s has established a strong regional presence in Southeastern states, as well as a broad geographic brand appeal. The concept operates 80 locations in 19 states and Puerto Rico, with seven new locations set to open by the end of 2011.Most locations are franchised, and Salsarita’s is seeking multiunit franchisees to help continue development and growth.

“I am extremely delighted and fortunate that the Salsarita’s chain became available. To me, it is the right opportunity at the right time,” Friedman says. “I want to commend and thank founder Bruce Willette for the concept he created, the team he led, and the chain he grew. I look forward to working with the entire Salsarita’s organization as we all grow and prosper together.”

Most recently, Friedman served as chairman, chief executive officer, and president of McAlister’s Corporation, which grew from 27 to 300 restaurants during his tenure. After leaving McAlister’s, Friedman began searching for a growing, high-potential fast-casual brand needing his skills and experience to achieve its potential, which led him to Salsarita’s.

Friedman is vice chairman of BrandStand Marketing Group and a founding member of IL ‘Pioppo LLC, importers of organic Italian wines. He also serves on the board of Diversified Restaurant Holdings Inc., a leading franchisee of Buffalo Wild Wings and the owner, operator, and franchisor of Bagger Dave’s Legendary Burger Tavern. Prior to McAlister’s, Friedman served as president of Panda Management Company Inc., chief financial officer for Service America Corporation, and vice president of restaurant planning for The Marriott Corporation. He serves on the board for the National Restaurant Association (NRA) and the Mississippi Restaurant Association, and he is a trustee for NRA’s Education Foundation. He is a past board member of the International Franchise Association.

Friedman has won many awards throughout his career, including the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association Silver Plate award for his outstanding achievement in the chain restaurant full-service category.

Reinstein joins Salsarita’s Holdings as a well-respected leader in the multiunit restaurant industry and a pioneer in the fast-casual segment. Most recently president and CEO of Fresh Concepts, a multiunit, multiconcept restaurant operating company, he is one of the original restaurant leaders that incorporated health, wellness, and sustainability as an integral part of his brands. In 1998 he led the creation of Fresh City, a daily eatery with a wide menu that can be customized to each guest’s personal lifestyle.

At Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina, customers can create a made-to-order meal from a Mexican menu that offers burritos, tacos, quesadillas, nachos, tortilla-crust pizzas, and salads with a wide selection of meats, fresh vegetables, and homemade salsas in a lively, family-friendly environment. Salsarita’s was founded in 2000 in Charlotte, North Carolina, by Bruce Willette, who prior to Salsarita’s had built a history of success in franchising, primarily in mall-based foodservice concepts.

Salsarita’s headquarters will remain in Charlotte where the company was founded and has prospered.

“Larry and I are extremely optimistic about the company’s growth prospects and expansion across the U.S.,” Friedman says. “We look forward to working with the team that has made Salsarita’s the success it is today.”

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