Restaurant Development & Design

March-April 2015

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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1 8 • R E S T A U R A N T D E V E L O P M E N T + D E S I G N • M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 5 Peer to Peer Q&A with Tim Taft President & CEO, Fiesta Restaurant Group F iesta Restaurant Group once operated as a division of Carrols Restaurant Group, the nation's largest Burger King franchisee. But in early 2012, Carrols' board of directors concluded the two entities were worth more separately and in May of that year spun Fiesta — parent to fast-casual brands Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana — off as a standalone public entity. Tim Taft, who'd been brought in as CEO in the fall of 2011, quickly got to work. He moved Fiesta's headquarters to Addison, Texas from Syracuse, N.Y., and assembled a new management team. Taft introduced a new prototype for Pollo Tropical and a new brand expres- sion for Taco Cabana in preparation to take each beyond its core market — Florida and Texas, respectively. Average unit volumes outshine competitors in their segments, at $2.7 million for Pollo Tropical and $1.8 million for Taco Cabana. FRGI's stock price had risen from just over $12 to more than $65 per share by late February. rd+d: Your team has had a productive three years. What has been the impact on unit development? TT: As part of Carrols, Fiesta Restaurant Group was building two, maybe three new units a year. In our frst year as a separate company we built 6, the next year we built 10, last year we built 12 and this year we'll do 24 or 26 new units. We're fond of talking about the dynamic nature of this company. It took Pollo Tropical 26 years to get to the frst 100 restaurants domestically. We now have 110, and we'll get to the second 100 in 3 or 4 years. rd+d: So it's Pollo Tropical that will drive much of Fiesta's growth? TT: We see a lot of opportunity with Taco Cabana, and we're developing some new strategies with that brand, but right now what we look at more than anything is capital allocation. We've determined that we can get the greatest return with Pollo. rd+d: To that end, you've made some signif- icant changes to Pollo's design prototype. TT: A big part of our strategy is to take Pollo beyond Florida and into Texas. But in doing customer research we found that despite the fact that our brand is built around Caribbean-style, citrus- marinated grilled chicken, even long- time, regular guests said it looks like a Mexican-style restaurant. As we looked at moving the brand into Texas, the last thing we wanted was for someone to look at it and say, "Oh, it's just another Mexican restaurant." We worked with branding and design frm FRCH to develop a distinctive new prototype that we call Big Blue. It screams Caribbean, is brand appropriate and consistent with the image we're trying to convey with our food and service. We liked the prototype so much that we're introducing it in Florida as well, starting with the Orlando market and then working it back through the system. rd+d: What are some of the Big Blue design highlights? TT: It looks like it belongs on a beach in the Caribbean. It starts on the exterior with the blue color, painted wooden shutters, white trim and trellis. Inside, the colors are vibrant and tropical, there's bleached wood and we've played BY DANA TANYERI, Editor-in-Chief

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