Barberitos Southwestern Grille and Cantina

Producing freshly prepared menu items in an efficient kitchen helps this Southwestern grille and cantina-themed restaurant chain compete successfully in the quick-service burrito channel.

Barberitos-Southwestern-Grille-and-CantinaWhen customers walk into Barberitos Southwestern Grille and Cantina they encounter a fun and family-friendly space that is lively and well lit. The space features many elements that make it feel like old Mexico, including a corrugated tin roof, canvas art and pottery shaped into frogs, geckos and lizards. The color palette of purple, yellow, red and green is distinctively Tex-Mex.

This quick-service chain features distinctively Southwestern fare freshly prepared as part of a farm-fresh campaign depicted in graphics and table tents showing the farm produce. Barberitos commits itself to serving only all-natural vegetables delivered to stores and hand-cut daily. No fats or preservatives are added to menu items during preparation. Further supporting the brand's warm and fun feeling is the customer service.

"Over our 10-year history, we've been successful and experienced growth even in tough times in 2008," says Kory Kitchens, director of operations. "We saw a 15.8 percent increase in systemwide sales from 2010 to 2011. Store sales over the past year are up by 10.7 percent. It's because we've never broken away from our mantra — great service and a clean restaurant and fresh food. In fact, we have adopted a new energy mantra: Barberitos focuses on positive and memorable relationships with employees and customers."

The staff at Barberitos emphasizes that this brand is not to be mistaken for fast food. "Our style is Southwestern and the concept is quick serve," the website emphasizes. "Our food is made-to-order right in front of you, exactly as you tell us to make it."

To keep the ingredients fresh, units receive food six or seven days a week, depending on the location. "Produce arrives daily so customers are assured that our food is fresh," Kitchens says.

Staff meet the trucks at the loading dock and take food to a walk-in cooler or dry storage. "We also have a freezer, but we don't use it for storage, rather as a blast chiller to bring meat quickly down to proper temperatures until it can be used in menu items that same day," Kitchens says.

When production begins, staff take products from storage to the back-of-house prep area, which has two five-foot prep tables "We hand-prepare as many ingredients from scratch as possible," Kitchen says. For example, staff marinate boneless, skinless breasts of chicken and hand-trimmed USDA Choice steak.

For salsa, staff dice up to 150 pounds of fresh tomatoes a day by hand and only use the automatic processor when necessary during peak traffic periods for tomatoes and other vegetables such as onions and peppers. For vegan guacamole, staff core fresh avocados and mash them into a smooth pulp before combining them with other ingredients. They blend homemade marinades and salad dressings by hand daily. Staff rely on the cheese grater for even cutting of 40-pound blocks of cheese and use a blender to mix pico and other sauces.

"We've looked at central production, but at the end of the day, we feel like we'd sacrifice quality," Kitchens says. "No doubt, this type of from-scratch production is more strenuous, but if we're going to say our food is fresh, we must not tolerate anything less than the freshest and best-tasting food. The customers appreciate the effort and the quality of the menu items."