Burrito Shop

Junior Burger
2006/03/30 02:41:53
Does anyone out there have any experience opening or working at a burrito shop? Comparable to Chipotle or Qdoba? I'm looking to open a small shop with quick assembly line style burritos made in front of the customer? I'd like to get as much info about the quick service food business as possible. Any input would be appreciated. Thanks.
Filet Mignon
RE: Burrito Shop 2006/03/30 03:20:31
As you are in Bakersfield, can we assume you know something about Mexican cooking? The fact that you mention a chain as an example of your aspiration aside, the first step to a great burrito operation has to be the ingredients, especially the meat options (the more and tastier the better), but also the beans, rice and so on? You ought to be able to find plenty of folks in the Central Valley who know how to fold a burrito.
Junior Burger
RE: Burrito Shop 2006/03/30 12:09:33
I always remembered a small burrito shop near Pismo Beach, 15 years ago that let you pick your ingredients and prepared it in front of you. Thought it was a great idea then, and still do now. I chose the example Chipotle, because they are the closest thing to the style that I would like to use. And by the looks of their 400+ units and growing, it seems like there should be a good market for this. I have been cooking my whole life, and have a great passion for it. I've spent the last 11 years playing pro baseball, and my career is winding down. Cooking is my second passion, and I figure this small operation would be a good start for me. I've got a small 1300 sq ft. suite in a 12 pad shopping strip. The shopping center won't be completed for about 16 months. Perfect location. Which will give me time to research, develop product, and fully understand what I'm getting into. But too be honest, I havn't a clue what it takes to run a food business, that is why I'm on this site. I've read a few books recently on restaurant start up and am open to any suggestions.
RE: Burrito Shop 2006/03/30 12:32:18
LBJ, we've got a very successful small chain up here in Southern Oregon called Senor Sam's.
They are each owned by a different family member.

Meat Choices:
Chili Verde • Shredded Beef • Chopped Grilled Checken • Chili Chicken
Shredded Pork • Seasoned Ground Beef • Chopped Grilled Steak (add 50¢)
Our Specialties | Favorite Plates | Vegetarian Specials | Ala Carte | Extras | Beverages
Big Burrito
Flour tortilla filled with cheese, rice, beans,
your choice of one meat, guacamole, sour cream
and salsa. Served with chips. $5.75
Jr. Big Burrito
Same as above - just not as big.
All Meat Burrito
Flour tortilla filled with your choice of meat, cheese,
guacamole, sour cream and salsa. Served with chips $5.75
Fajita Burrito
Wheat tortilla filled with cheese, beans, sour cream,
fajitas and your choice of one meat. Topped with fajitas
and cheese. Served with chips. $6.50
Tostada Salad
Flat crispy corn tortilla layered with beans,
your choice of one meat, lettuce, salad dressing, cheese,
guacamole, sour cream and salsa. Served with chips. $5.50
Super Nachos
Chips topped with melted cheese, your choice
of one meat, beans, guacamole, sour cream and salsa. Lg. $5.95
Sm. $4.95
Meaty Quesadilla
Jack and cheddar cheese melted on a large flour tortilla
with your choice of one meat. Served with guacamole,
sour cream and salsa on the side. $5.50
Fajita Quesadilla
Jack and cheddar cheese melted on a large flour tortilla
with your choice of one meat, sauteed bell peppers, onions
and tomatoes. Served with guacamole, sour cream and
salsa on the side. $6.50
Mexican Pizza
Two crisp flour tortillas layered with pinto beans, seasoned
ground beef, fresh tomatoes, onions, and our special sauce.
Topped with olives and Jack and cheddar cheese $4.25
Large flour tortilla filled with cheese, rice, beans, & your
choice of one meat. Deep fried to a crispy golden brown.
Served on a bed of lettuce and topped with guacamole,
sour cream, salsa and cheese. $6.50
Our Specialties | Favorite Plates | Vegetarian Specials | Ala Carte | Extras | Beverages

You put the sauces and peppers on at a condiment bar, and serve yourself water, pop or coffee. Simple, fast, and cheap.
Filet Mignon
RE: Burrito Shop 2006/03/30 12:34:13
Well, I hope my colleagues here can give you specific help. I can't, really, because I'm just a burrito lover, not a restaurant pro. One suggestion I can give you: take a weekend and hop the AMTRAK San Joaquin (unless you're masochistic enough to want to drive) to San Francisco's Mission District and check out the taquerias. They are all the prototypes of Chipotle but independently run and you should get plenty of ideas. Here's the serving line at Pancho Villa, probably the closest to what you have in mind in that it's a smoothly run operation with a popular product:

This is their menu:

This is the line at El Farolito, a smaller neighborhood place:

and here's another view:

and here's a carne asada sandwich:

off this grill:

And finally, their burrito (looks like carnitas, my favorite:

These places are all pretty similar and IMHO are what you want to duplicate, but, as I said, you have to start with some knowledge of making a great chile colorado, carnitas and other great fillings.
RE: Burrito Shop 2006/03/30 12:48:26
The PV menu looks too complex BT, though good. I mentioned the Sam's place because they are disciplined about keeping the menu tight and simple, so you know what you want no matter which one you are in, and they can keep the line moving. Alas, like you, I'm a burrito fan, not a worker, so I don't have any business insights.
RE: Burrito Shop 2006/03/30 12:55:33
LBJ, if you want to see how to run a burrito joint, hop on a plane and come to Chicago. We've got about a bazillion mom & pop burrito houses, taquerias and small Mexican restaurants here. They're custom making burritos with fresh, high quality ingredients, for legions of customers, almost as quick as you can order them.

Forget about Chipotle and Qdoba as your model. If you want to see how to do a burrito the right way, fast, come visit us here on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Junior Burger
RE: Burrito Shop 2006/03/30 14:21:44
I'm looking to keep the menu very simple. Burritos, tacos, and quesadillas and salad. Grilled steak, carnitas, grilled chicken. Black beans, pintos, brown rice, white rice. Everything made daily, no canned products, and a few types of salsa. My location is adjacent to 16 auto dealerships, and borders a large residential area as well as other small office business. I need to keep it simple and fast because lunch will be the main source of revenue. There are no other food joints in a 2 mile radius, plus the owner of the building plans to add a Starbuck's two doors down from my suite. You can't go wrong buddying up with Starbuck's. I'm figuring $100,000 should get me going considering the owner will build to suit and I'll add the equipment, inventory, insurance, and all the other goodies which go into starting up. Anybody know if $100,000 is a realistic start up capital? Keep in mind, this will be a very small joint. 25' wide by 45' deep.
RE: Burrito Shop 2006/03/30 15:49:39
Those pictures were really nice. And I checked out Senor Sam's site. It looks good and if I get up that way I will go to the location on Talent Avenue in the town of Talent because I bet they have the most talent .

LBJ.. Your location sounds like a winner even if you HAD lots of competition.
Just do it right and you will be fine.
RE: Burrito Shop 2006/03/31 07:54:18
I like the sound of your operation, here is my suggestion. Once you get the menu down and begin to source your products look to the quality end of the scale. Seperate your business from the others by serving and maintaining fresh high-quality products that your customers can see and taste. Show them fresh herbs going into products and make the food stand out, let your advertising be on the plate!!! Sounds like an interesting venture, the best of luck to you. Byron
Double Cheeseburger
RE: Burrito Shop 2006/03/31 08:41:02
sounds like you are full of inspiration. by the request you have made, i get the impression you haven't actually worked in this field before. that, is a big drawback. you should take a job, if only for a short while, at a nice burrito/taco place, and learn the ropes first hand. 'just because you have a bucket of paint and a 6 pack of brushes, don't make you an artist'. your ideals are commendable, but you must understand that working in the food industry is not all that glamorous, nor easy. as far as your menu idea, you stated you want to keep it simple and fast, but no canned products. well that is a contradiction of terms. fresh made ingredients will take some time, and more kitchen equipment will be required. you can easily start up and run with only 100k, heck, for half that if you know what you are doing, but you must be smart in your equipment purchases, and you must know in advance to what level you want to grow. as your business needs grow, you must prepare for that before you ever begin..
BT those pics are great! good looking place.

pismo beach...ahhhh memories.... i wonder if 'Harrys is still there? they make a mean long island iced tea....
my ex had a few one time, and lost her weddin ring while praying to the porcelin gods... the staff looked for hours.....
she found it in her pocket.....what a crazy nite... great little burrito place there too.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
RE: Burrito Shop 2006/03/31 09:33:30
The concept sounds quite similar to a hugely successful Boston mini-chain, Anna's Taquerias. Was once written up in the NY Times online as worth a day trip to Boston and even has a Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna's_Taqueria

Sort of an abbreviated version of a Mission Taqueria. Counter at the first one is maybe 12 feet, including register. Two types of beans, rice, maybe 5-6 fillings (at least one being a good veggie option), couple of salsas. Anything can be served burritoed, tacoed, etc. But it's all their own and fresh. Qdoba tastes like Old El Paso cans by comparison. A friend from LA was complaining about there being no good burritos in Boston and when I mentioned Anna's she said, they're good, they're just too clean.

I recall reading an article when they were first taking off that the owner was shortly out of college, from the Bay Area, and had a relative with a successful burrito chain. Went looking for an area with a young receptive population and picked Boston (actually started in Brookline). Picked the name Anna so it would be near the top of phone/restaurant listings. First location was probably almost the size you're talking about, then picked up the lease on the store next door for more dining area and then opened another a half-mile away to pick up the overflow and expanded foot traffic. Many others have sprung up since then, Herrera's even serves out of pushcarts in the business/shopping district, but Anna's seems to maintain its niche with reliable quality, cheap prices, and targeting areas with college students.

Of course, that's Boston, where it's not that long ago that Jack in the Box was considered Mexican. But the model might be worth a look.
Junior Burger
RE: Burrito Shop 2006/03/31 13:50:01
Thanks for the feedback everyone. It would be very difficult for me to work a second job in a place like this to gain experience. I may try to befriend an owner of a small establishment and get some insight on what it takes to run it. As long as I can convince him that I'm not directly trying to compete with him. Heck, I'd be wiling to work there on my off days for free just to gain experience.
RE: Burrito Shop 2006/03/31 14:22:38
LBJ, you should add the Chili Verde to your menu.