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Two big changes on the restaurant operations have marked the past 25 years, Lin added.
“On the positive side, technology has finally come to the restaurant business,” he said. “The ability to measure and dissect operating costs, often on a real-time basis, has led to much greater productivity and efficiency in how we run our restaurants.  Technology has also allowed us to more easily communicate with, and understand, our guests and for our guests to interact with us.  Social media is in essence ‘word of mouth on steroids.’”

The other big change, which Lin said has become a challenge, is the shrinking labor pool in both demographics and the appeal of the restaurant industry, especially for managers.

“The restaurant industry is a demanding one, and it just seems many younger people are looking for something easier to pursue,” Lin said, adding that quality labor will continue to be a challenge for the foreseeable future.

However, Lin said the Mexican/Latin food segment is becoming more mainstream and moving beyond Texas and the Southwest.

“In many markets, Mexican for dinner is not top of mind,” Lin said. “Clearly though, given the success of Mexican-themed concepts such as Chipotle for lunch, the natural progression is for Mexican food to be part of the normal ‘rotation,’ like Italian currently is for all day parts. We are well-positioned to take advantage of that trend.”

To tap into that appeal, Abuelo’s is currently promoting a silver anniversary three-course sampling menu through Aug. 4 that includes a guacamole appetizer, a flan and a choice from three classic entrees that range from $12.99 for the Laredo plate (beef enchilada, cheese enchilada and beef taco) to $20.99 for a 10-ounce ribeye and enchiladas.

Food Concepts International has 40 full-service Abuelo’s in 15 states.

Contact Ron Ruggless at ronald.ruggless@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless