Guzman y Gomez eyes New Zealand for potential expansion
Aussie-born Mexican chain Guzman y Gomez launched its 135th store globally earlier this week – it’s first foray into the United States, the brands fourth territory.
However, GYG co-founder and chief executive Steve Marks has long had eyes at the New Zealand food market.
“We need a great partner [in New Zealand]. We’re trying to find one,” Marks told Inside Retail.
“I’ve been living in New Zealand for the last six years. It’s one of my favourite countries. There’s 4 to 5 million people there who love their quality food.”
US store is ‘first of thousands’
The new Guzman y Gomez US flagship marks the chain’s 135th globally, following successful expansion across Australia, Singapore and Japan, but you won’t find the new outlet in New York or L.A.
Instead, US Guzman fans will have to travel to Naperville, a growing suburb 40 minutes outside of Chicago to get a taste of the Aussie success-story.
Marks, a native New Yorker said the area, while not a household name, was an ideal launching pad for the ever-growing global business.
“It’s always been our dream to bring the brand back to the U.S. It took a couple of years to find the right location, and what we ended up doing was knocking down an old bank and building a beautiful, two-lane drive-through restaurant,” he revealed.
“The amazing thing is that it’s been packed from breakfast to dinner. Our team is pumped with the response that we’ve seen from the Chicago community already.”
Guzman y Gomez US flagship
It’s been a meteoric rise for the Australian-born business, which was launch by Marks and fellow New Yorker Robert Hazan in Sydney 13 years ago. Since then, the chain has gone from strength to strength, even bucking a recent down-turn in food retail, which Marks puts down to a superior quality product.
“To build a successful business in Australia, where the labour costs are so high, the food costs are so high, you have to have your operations right and a great product.”
In fact, Marks believes it’s been this pseudo US-apprenticeship that has provided the brand with tools to take on monster US operations like Chipotle and Taco Bell.
“Americans love Aussies. I’ve have had to explain that there’s no Vegemite burritos or anything like that, it’s real, proper Mexican food, but it’s a great starting point,” he said.
“With the energy that we bring, the white space for us in the US is limitless. It will be a case of build one, make sure it works, build another, make sure that works. From there, we’ll focus on building out the outer suburbs of Chicago.”
While he remains coy about the immediate future of US enterprise, Marks is expecting big things in the long-term.
“We intend on opening hundreds, if not thousands of GYG locations across the US and, while this won’t be our last, I want our very first in Naperville to be the one everyone knows about and visits.”
With eyes firmly set on the new Guzman y Gomez US flagship endeavour, back home in Australia, the franchise is booming.
A recent trend towards drive-through operations has delivered enhanced revenue for the Mexican-inspired chain, Marks revealed.
“There’s just so much upside with drive-through. While it is a larger investment, the revenue potential is far higher, and the lease terms are much longer. We are a return on investment business and that’s what drive-throughs offer.”
In a similar vein, an increase of corporate stores is set to provide greater market share, which Marks believes will in turn boost numbers across the board.
“We’re aiming for 400 in Australia, we think that’s possible,” he revealed.
“We’re hitting that sweet spot now. I really believe we are one team with one synergy, so I don’t really think about it as corporate vs franchised.”
It’s an equation that Guzman y Gomez has so far worked out. A network of satisfied franchisees willing to tout the brand at every turn is Marks’ greatest achievement.
“It’s pride. Australia needs great businesses that take care of their franchisees,” he said.
“When I wake up, all I care about is them. If that’s not your mentality, get out of it. These guys work so hard to build up the capital to invest in a GYG, you have a commitment to give them your all. To me personally, it’s amazing that somebody wants to buy into your dreams, you need to help them reach theirs.”
This is an edited version of a story that first ran on sister site Inside Franchise Business.
Author: Nick Hall, additional reporting by Dean Blake.