Mexicali Fresh starts a new chapter for experienced entrepreneur
Maggie Donnelly cheerfully admits that she ‘had no interest in food other than eating it!’ before she started looking for a new business. Eight weeks after opening her Mexicali Fresh franchise in Napier, though, she says, ‘I’m very pleased with the choice I made.’
Maggie knows a good opportunity when she sees one. Having spent 25 years building an outdoor clothing brand from Nelson that exported round the world, when she sold up she decided to move to Hawkes Bay and seek a new challenge. ‘I wanted something that would interest me long term and that I could stand behind and promote with confidence. I know how hard it is to start from scratch so I also wanted something that was solid, well-supported and sustainable.
‘The food industry is notorious for being hard work, but I can assure you that nothing is as hard as trying to get fabrics from all round the world to create NZ-made clothing in the knowledge that everyone else is copying you! I looked very hard at a couple of options, and two things stood out for me about Mexicali Fresh: first, although it is a well-established franchise they had no outlet in Napier; second, my husband’s older children are big fans of the healthy food that Mexicali Fresh offers and are regulars at the restaurants in Auckland. That was the most valuable market research I could possibly get,’ she laughs.
‘You can’t spend 25 years developing a business without getting an instinct for how others are performing, and Mexicali Fresh are right up there. I wanted that branding, with those systems in place – the kind of things that can make all the difference to your chance of success.’
Having found the right brand, Maggie set out to find the ideal site with Mexicali’s help. They settled on a CBD location nearly opposite Napier’s Visitor Information Centre. ‘We had to wait six months for it to become available, but it was well worth it and we have been flat out ever since we opened.’
Mexicali Fresh first opened its doors in Auckland in 2005. A family business founded by experienced restaurateurs with their roots in 1970s California, it introduced New Zealanders to the fresh, crisp flavours of Mexican food. Today, there are 17 Mexicali Fresh franchises around the country with sister franchise Burger Wisconsin adding further buying power to the two companies.
Both brands specialise in fast casual dining – the fastest-growing part of the eating-out sector. ‘People want restaurant quality food served quickly and in informal surroundings, and that’s exactly what we provide,’ explains Tyler Kerlin, the co-founder of Mexicali Fresh. ‘We offer fresh food, with local ingredients where possible and, unlike the fast food outlets, we prepare it fresh in store every day with a range of healthy choices. In some locations, regulars represent 80 percent of our business so we have a hugely loyal fan base who eat with us several times a week. That’s what Maggie saw, and we’re delighted to welcome her on board as she brings the kind of energy and brand awareness we look for.’
Napier represents the next stage of the Mexicali Fresh journey, with the traditional in-line counter service system being upgraded. ‘Customers order then sit down with a drink while their food is made fresh and brought out to them,’ Tyler explains. ‘It has worked very well in Napier, and gives us an alternative model that we can use in our future restaurants where that’s more suited to the local market.’
There’s another attraction for people like Maggie, too – the opportunity to grow. Mexicali Fresh are keen to see franchisees develop multi-unit operations once they have proved themselves. Maggie says, ‘Ultimately, I plan to have three Mexicali Fresh outlets in the area, but such is demand that my immediate priority is to have a caravan which will allow us to cater for the massive demand for local weddings and events using the capacity from our CBD kitchen. It’s all about making the most of the brand’s reputation.’
For now, Maggie is putting in 14-hour days and thriving on the adrenaline rush that comes from seeing her new venture take off. ‘All the other franchisees told me that no matter how well-prepared I was, opening day would hit me like a rush because Mexicali Fresh is so popular, and they were right – it was overwhelming! But I had lots of the franchisor team there to help, and the support has continued ever since. Am I pleased I chose Mexicali Fresh? I have to say a resounding “Yes.”’
Mexicali Fresh is looking for enthusiastic, energetic people who are passionate about great food and customer service to open new outlets all around the country. ‘This represents a great opportunity for ambitious owners to get into their own restaurant business,’ says Tyler. ‘The investment required is around $400,000 +gst and, as Maggie is proving, business nous and lots of energy are more important than hospitality experience. Contact us to find out more.’
See this advertorial on page 11 of Franchise New Zealand magazine Year 27 Issue 2
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advertiser info: franchise business opportunity
|industry food and beverage||investment $375,000+||number in NZ 17 and globally 17||FANZ member yes|
|contact Tyler Kerlin
p 0-9-973 4559
|industry||food and beverage|
|number in NZ||17|
This material is copyright © Franchise NZ Marketing Limited, Franchise New Zealand ™ magazine and Franchise New Zealand On Line . While it may be downloaded for personal use, no part may be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the specific written permission of the publisher.