President and Founder of Pancheros Mexican Grill explains why the burrito franchise’s simple business model is designed to thrive in any market
Founded in 1992, Pancheros was modeled on the Chicago taquerias that founder Rodney Anderson visited often with his friends during his teenage years. Fast forward 25 years, and the Mexican food industry has grown to around $60 billion. While Pancheros started as a single restaurant on the campus of the University of Iowa, it’s now a thriving burrito franchise with 71 locations throughout 13 states. And the core of it’s growth has been the founder’s relentless focus on simplicity.
In this interview, Anderson explains why the burrito franchise’s proven business model is simple to operate and can be successful in any market.
Tell us about the origin of Pancheros Mexican Grill.
Anderson: In 1992, we opened our first store in Iowa City near the University of Iowa. At that time we were serving a Chicago-style burrito. The concept originated from me and my friends’ visits to Chicago taquerias throughout high school and college. We found that Mexican food was very popular with young people and figured the experience of authentic Mexican food would be popular with young people everywhere. Our first location is still open today and has since become a popular tradition at the University of Iowa.
What makes Pancheros Mexican Grill unique?
Anderson: What makes Pancheros stand out from other Mexican QSR restaurants is that we not only use fresh-pressed tortillas, but also perfectly mix its ingredients with the help of BOB the Tool – a unique plastic spatula used to carefully mix ingredients together to create the perfect bite. So not only does the customer get the experience of seeing their tortilla made fresh, they also taste every ingredient in every bite. We make our dough, queso and salsa fresh daily, as well as trim and marinate our meat in every restaurant. If you’re a burrito lover, you’ll notice the difference in your first bite.
How is this concept simple for the customer to understand and simple for the franchisee to operate?
Anderson: We worked on our concept for six years and then we simplified it so that franchisees could operate it. We cross-trained every employee in the restaurant so that anyone could work at the POS, or in the front or back of the house. We don’t have any predetermined menu combinations that need to be memorized because every order is custom made. Additionally, it’s a simple concept for the customer to understand because our menu boards are straightforward.
Why is now a good time to invest in a Pancheros?
Anderson: We have been in business for more than 25 years and have been franchising for more almost 15 years. Pancheros is a proven concept in the Midwest. We’ve expanded to the Northeast and opened additional restaurants in other proven markets, like Minneapolis. A lot of our growth is coming from existing franchisees, but we continue to look for the right franchise partners to strategically introduce the brand to new areas.
Our ideal franchisee has operated other businesses and understands what it takes to make one thrive. Additionally, they know how to roll out a brand, understand the real estate market and how to manage a staff in order for their operation to be successful.