The casual-dining chain will debut the new Abuelo's Taqueria this fall
Food Concepts International is planning a fast-casual spinoff of its Abuelo’s Mexican Restaurant in late October with the opening of the new Abuelo’s Taqueria in its home base of Lubbock, Texas.
The 41-unit Abuelo’s casual-dining chain has designed the Taqueria concept to offer Mexican items as well as salads, vegetables and house-made sauces and salsas. The unit will also serve beer and margaritas.
Robert Lin, president of Lubbock, Texas-based Food Concepts International, said, "Abuelo’s Taqueria offers us a way to further express our passion for food in a distinctively different way, while at the same time giving our guests the same quality they have come to expect from Abuelo’s.”
The Taqueria will cover about 3,500 square feet, compared with the typical full-service Abuelo’s unit size of 6,800 square feet, the company said. Also, the spinoff will seat 96, compared to the 225 seats in a typical Abuelo’s full-service unit.
Guests at the new Abuelo’s Taqueria will order and pay at the counter. The company is still considering the options of customers picking up the food at the counter or having runners deliver it to the table, according to Melanie Carroll, director of communications for Food Concepts.
Fast-casual spin-offs from full-service restaurants have been ongoing since the 2000 introduction of Pei Wei Asian Diner by P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and extend to family dining with concepts from Denny’s, IHOP, Shoney’s and others.
Fast-casual chains like Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill have been gaining market share from full-service concepts. The Chicago-based consultancy Technomic reported in May that 2011 sales at the top 150 fast-casual chains grew 8.4 percent to $21.5 billion, outpacing the 6.6-percent growth at all the 500 top restaurant brands. Total restaurant units among the most recent “Fast-Casual Top 150” concepts rose 5.2 percent, to 17,447, Technomic reported.
Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, said in a statement with the May data release: "Fast-casual restaurants fill the gap between quick service and casual dining. People want fast, fresh, quality meals at a fair price point. This segment seems to hit that sweet spot right now."
James Young, co-founder and chief of Abuelo’s and chairman of Food Concepts International, said the Taqueria is “a perfect fit for today’s lifestyles and is ideal for both lunch and dinner for everyone who loves Mexican food but is short on time.”
Abuelo’s, founded in 1989, has units in 15 states.