Opening 300 new locations over the next five years in the United States and South America may sound like an ambitious goal, but that’s just what 100 Montaditos’ chief executive for the Americas Juan Gervás hopes to do with his Spanish fast-casual concept.
The restaurant chain — with its signature montadito, a small tapas-style sandwich traditionally prepared with Jamón Ibérico, a high-quality Spanish ham — debuted in Huelva, Spain, a dozen years ago. Today the company has more than 300 locations in Europe, the United States and South America.
By the end of 2012, Gervás said, 100 Montaditos — currently the second-largest restaurant chain in Spain — will have opened six new franchised locations in New York and Washington, D.C.
MARKET SEGMENT: fast-casual
AVERAGE CHECK: $10-$12
NO. OF UNITS: more than 300 worldwide
AVERAGE SEATING: 120
CHIEF MENU ITEMS: montaditos — tiny sandwiches made with meats and cheeses
LEADERSHIP: José María Fernández Capitán, founder; Juan Gervás, chief executive for the Americas
YEAR FOUNDED: 2000
COMPETITION: no direct chain competition in the United States
TARGET MARKETS: the United States, Latin America
100 Montaditos is one of the newer entrants in the race among overseas restaurant companies looking to plant their banners in this country’s extensive foodservice landscape. Other international concepts include Japan’s Sarku Japan, the U.K.’s Pret A Manger, Guatemala’s Pollo Campero, South Africa’s Nando’s, Germany’s Vapiano and Australia’s Pie Face.
When 100 Montaditos first began opening units in the United States in January 2011, the company zeroed in on Florida as its starting point largely because of the state’s historic Spanish influence. Today the company operates eight stores there.
Miami also serves as the company’s headquarters for restaurants in the Americas, while Madrid is the hub for companywide operations.
According to an August study conducted by restaurant industry research firm Technomic, ethnic food options are growing in popularity among consumers. The study found that 77 percent of consumers polled said they would purchase ethnic food and drinks away from home at least once a month. And that number jumped to 88 percent among Hispanics — a trend that could bode well for 100 Montaditos’ growth plans.
“We are planning to spread the oil, as we’d say in Spain,” Gervás said, meaning that the company is planning to grow in a contiguous, strategic way throughout the United States, South America and Europe.
“We want to expand from Florida up north. We expect to be in the Carolinas. Texas is a natural placement for us, too,” he continued. “Our plan is likely that we’ll have a franchise agreement in place by the end of the year for all these areas.”
While 100 Montaditos is well established in Spain, Gervás said it is still in the early stages of its highly ambitious expansion plans. The chain has more than 100 franchisees worldwide, with about 10 to 15 currently signed in the United States.
Gervás said the fact that there are few fast-casual Spanish restaurant options will help to fuel 100 Montaditos’ growth in the United States. All of the company’s future expansion, he said, likely will be conducted through franchise agreements.
The restaurants are built to resemble 19th-century Spanish taverns. The whole concept for the restaurant, Gervás said, is based around that of a “taverna” — a place where people can gather, be sociable and dine.
“It’s fast casual, yes; but it’s also a place where friends and family can enjoy a meal together,” he said.
The company’s No. 1 seller is its Serrano ham montadito, which is priced at $1. And every Wednesday, every montadito on the menu costs $1, Gervás said.
The menu features 100 types of the tiny sandwich — hence the company’s name. Selections include smoked salmon, $1; pulled barbecue pork and bacon, $2; goat cheese, sun-dried tomato and pesto, $2.50; and anchovies, tuna, fresh tomato and mayonnaise, $3.
The chain’s menu also offers samplers of 12 to 24 montaditos as well as several other Spanish tapas classics, including olives, ham and cheese plates, and spicy patatas bravas — a simple potato dish with sauce.
PREVIOUSLY: Growth Chains: Becks Prime