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Barberitos Southwestern Grille and Cantina

The Barberitos Story

Downing Barber grew up in south Georgia, attending college at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga., and graduate school at Mercer University in Macon, Ga. After earning his degrees, Barber took off for Colorado and traveled extensively throughout the Southwest, where he found a passion for Southwestern cuisine. He was impressed with the potential of Southwestern cuisine to provide individuals with meals that are healthy and high in nutritional value.

Returning to Athens, Ga., Barber decided the city presented a perfect market for a restaurant serving this cuisine because there were no competitors. At age 25, he started Barberitos with the intention of just running a single restaurant. Two years later he began franchising and within 10 years grew the chain to its current 25 units, only two of which are company-owned stores.

Barber's philosophy is to give back to the communities that support his business. "He is one of the most passionate and kindhearted people I know," says Amanda McAllister, marketing director. "He is constantly giving back to the community and hoping for nothing in return. He raises money for breast cancer by publicizing the October breast cancer fundraisers and selling pink chips and shirts. In addition, every week, we're doing a huge food donation or sponsoring another charitable event."

Facts of Note

  • Ownership: Downing Barber, CEO and founder
  • Opened: 2000 (first unit)
  • Headquarters: Athens, Ga.
  • Units: 28 units (13 more are sold, including five that will be opened by year's end; another nine are scheduled to be opened in 2013). Most are end caps in shopping centers; two are in shared spaces, one at University of Georgia, and one at the Capitol Commons building in Atlanta
  • Locations: Five states — Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Florida
  • Size: 2,200 square feet on average
  • Seats: 70 on average
  • Average Check: $9.50
  • Total Annual Sales: $13.6 million; systemwide sales up 17.2 percent compared to 2011
  • Transactions/unit: 300 on average per day
  • Franchised restaurants: 25 (restaurants opened for 2012 and 2013 will also be franchised)
  • Company-owned units: Two, both of which are training stores
  • Franchise Fee: $20,000 plus 5 percent of sales
  • Hours: Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Menu Specialties: Burritos, nachos, quesadillas, salads, tacos and guacamole
  • Staff: 20 employees per store on average
  • Total investment to build: If just a vanilla box, $300,000 (including everything from the franchise fee to the store opening. Costs increase depending on grease traps, etc.)
  • Equipment Investment: $66,000
  • Website:

Key Players

  • Owner and CEO: Downing Barber
  • CFO: Candace Barber
  • Vice President of Operations: Elizabeth Dale
  • Director of External Operations: Kory Kitchens
  • Marketing Director: Amanda McCallister
  • Compliance Director: Noah Brendel
  • Architect: Hopkins Architecture, Atlanta; Mike Hopkins, principal
  • Interior Designer: Various companies. Barberitos corporate does facility layouts.
  • Graphics: AKO Signs, Athens, Ga. (all graphics and new canvas art program); Pottery Express, Punta Gorda, Fla.
  • Equipment Dealer: Edward Don & Co., Atlanta; Rick Olla