On the heels of success at its Sicklerville and Montclair State University locations, Mexican fast-casual restaurant California Tortilla is planning a 20 restaurant expansion in New Jersey.
The company is in talks with a multi-unit, multi-concept operator in the Cherry Hill area and is currently accepting and reviewing applications from developers in North Jersey, Director of Franchise Development Aaron Goldberg said.
New Jersey demographics draw the chain to the state, as they’re similar to the demographics in some of the brand’s most successful markets in its native Washington, D.C. metro area.
“[New Jersey has] many markets that look like our best performing markets: Cherry Hill, Passaic, Bergen County. It’s a great suburban play,” he said of the interest in New Jersey expansion. “We look for higher income areas with families with as many kids as possible, and we also have an urban millennial play. We’re into delivery and carry out and the urban 28 to 34-year-old crowd.”
Mexican food is the fastest growing segment in the fast-casual industry, and the fast-casual sector is the fastest in the restaurant industry, he said. California Tortilla has an international fusion take on Mexican food, with menu items like Thai Bangkok Shrimp of Korean barbecue tacos and burritos.
“It’s burritos with a twist,” he said.
Like many restaurants, they source some of their ingredients from a multi-state distributor. But for some of the more important items, they go straight to the source.
“The most important items to our flavor profile, we purchase those directly from the farms in California,” Goldberg said. “We go out and stand in the fields and pick the avocados and tomatoes we want to buy.”
They source from “at least three” farms, Goldberg said, to ensure they’re constantly getting the best price and quality.
And where California Tortillas go, they thrive: On average, stores do over $1 million in sales each year. Top market stores perform north of $2.2 million. To fit a California Tortilla to an existing restaurant property, franchisees will need around $400,000 to open for their first year. For a full build of a new property and the first year’s operating costs, franchisees will spend approximately $700,000, he said.
A previously opened location in Roxbury will reopen this fall. New locations are projected to open by the fourth quarter of 2020.