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Anybody out there own or work in a quick service burrito/taco shop? I'm looking to open one up and would appreciate any kind of information from someone in this style of food industry. I would like to serve burritos, tacos, quesadillas, salad in an assembly line style, where the customers watches and picks what he/she want on their burrito. In and out in a short amount of time. Very simlilar to a Chipotle or Qdoba. It's a small 1300 sq. ft suite in a 12 suite mini shopping center. It's in a great location, but construction of the facilty won't be complete for 12-18 months. Should be ample time to research, and possible work in a small place for a several months to gain experience. Seeking any kind of advice from start up, equipment, product, pitfalls,... etc...I'm all ears....or should I say all eyes.

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I guess it's safe to assume that you're opening up shop somewhere in California? Tell us if it's North or South, because I do believe there's a big difference in style...

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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Seeking any kind of advice from start up, equipment, product, pitfalls,... etc...I'm all ears....or should I say all eyes.

Up here in the South Bay Area there is a renowned shop similar to what you are trying to do. It's called Burrito Real (Rengstorrf in Mountain View), and has multiple options for meat, beans, rice and extras. They do excellent business and have desserts, aguas frescas and fresh salsas. They had one other shop in Campbell fold because of bad location.

Chipotle as you know is owned by McDonalds, has limited offerings and is too expensive. You can get the same prices as they if you offer more variety, and if your location is good. Good luck!

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I can only speak to the product side of things but can say I go out of my way for any place that uses fresh tortillas. They are so delicious. The fillings only carry it so far. And real tortillas don't fall apart so easily which is nice.

Good luck and hope you'll keep us posted on your progress.

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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I guess it's safe to assume that you're opening up shop somewhere in California?  Tell us if it's North or South, because I do believe there's a big difference in style...

Actually it's central California. Bakersfield to be exact.

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Very simlilar to a Chipotle or Qdoba.

I haven't been to either of these and don't currently work in food service. I did work as a cook and manager for a Southwestern restaurant many years ago.

In San Francisco, it seems like burrito stores either have the customer interact directly with the person who is putting their burrito together or have the cashier take the order.

Having the food preparer interact with the customer, means the cook has to devote him or herself to each transaction exclusively. The places that do it this way have three or four cooks on during busy times to alternately serve customers and escort them through the assembly line. El Toro, Carmelitas, La Coroneta and others are examples of this method in SF.

However, since you have to have a counter person there anyway, or you'll be washing your hands between each order, it seems to me that that having the counter person take the order is the more efficient way to go. It seems to confuse customers less, especially if they are unfamiliar with the menu. In addition, it enables your kitchen staff to prepare food more efficiently by grouping orders etcetera. As an extra special bonus, you don't have to worry about training your kitchen staff to interact with customers. Papalote, La Fonda, Taqueria Cancun, La Taqueria and others work this way.

The beautiful thing about a taqueria, is that 99.9% of the work is prep work. As long as you skip enchiladas or tamales, quesadillas are probably your most time consuming item.

I would recommend investing in large pressure cookers for your beans and braised meats (if you are doing braised meats). They are a bit of a pain to get used to; but, the time you save in the long run, is a big bonus.

Good luck! Be sure and keep us posted how things are going. I look forward to having a decent burrito place to stop at in Bakersfield.

-Erik

PS. Check out Burritoeater.com for the most comprehensive list of taquerias in San Francisco.

edit - tried to make more clear.

Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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....I would like to serve burritos, tacos, quesadillas, salad in an assembly line style, where the customers watches and picks what he/she want on their burrito. In and out in a short amount of time. Very simlilar to a Chipotle or Qdoba....

Have you been to Jake's Tex-Mex on Oak Street in Bakersfield? It's a similar assembly line concept except their base ingredient is shredded deep pit beef or shredded chicken. You'd be amazed at the different combinations they've come up with using a set of limited ingredients. It ranges from salads to sandwiches to Frito boats to nachos and on & on. All with either shredded beef or shredded chicken.

If I recall correctly, it's an "L"-shaped set up with usually two employees on each side of the "L". The first employee will start putting your order together and pass it to the next employee to finish it. The other side of the "L" has the salads & fixin's along with desserts and beverages and the cashier (the 4th employee).

While not the same cuisine, it's an idea similar to yours.

Also, Subway sandwiches uses the assembly line method and usually has the very long lines to show for it. I think the more ingredients you offer, the more specialized the orders will be ("yes on the tomatoes, no on the onions, yes on the sour cream, no to the cheese") and if they're ordering for their entire office :angry: it really sucks to be in line behind them as they special order each sandwich. :hmmm:

edited for punctuation!

edited again to say now that I've read my post again, Jake's usually has long lines and so does Chipotle (and Subway). There is nothing quick about using an assembly line where the customer has to pick out the ingredients as the item is being put together. Go with eje's suggestion and have a cashier take the order. I think it would be faster by far.

Edited by Toliver (log)

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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....I would like to serve burritos, tacos, quesadillas, salad in an assembly line style, where the customers watches and picks what he/she want on their burrito. In and out in a short amount of time. Very simlilar to a Chipotle or Qdoba....

Have you been to Jake's Tex-Mex on Oak Street in Bakersfield? It's a similar assembly line concept except their base ingredient is shredded deep pit beef or shredded chicken. You'd be amazed at the different combinations they've come up with using a set of limited ingredients. It ranges from salads to sandwiches to Frito boats to nachos and on & on. All with either shredded beef or shredded chicken.

If I recall correctly, it's an "L"-shaped set up with usually two employees on each side of the "L". The first employee will start putting your order together and pass it to the next employee to finish it. The other side of the "L" has the salads & fixin's along with desserts and beverages and the cashier (the 4th employee).

While not the same cuisine, it's an idea similar to yours.

Also, Subway sandwiches uses the assembly line method and usually has the very long lines to show for it. I think the more ingredients you offer, the more specialized the orders will be ("yes on the tomatoes, no on the onions, yes on the sour cream, no to the cheese") and if they're ordering for their entire office :angry: it really sucks to be in line behind them as they special order each sandwich. :hmmm:

edited for punctuation!

edited again to say now that I've read my post again, Jake's usually has long lines and so does Chipotle (and Subway). There is nothing quick about using an assembly line where the customer has to pick out the ingredients as the item is being put together. Go with eje's suggestion and have a cashier take the order. I think it would be faster by far.

You make a valid point, but I think the popularity of these places(Jakes,Chipotle, Subway) is because of the fact that the customer gets to create his/her own product. Whether or not you have a cashier take your order and you sit and wait, or if your wait is spent in the assembly line. A 15 person wait is still a 15 person wait. Does that make any sense?

Granted, you would have to emply a couple more people to work the line and someone to man the cashier, as opposed to one cook in the back putting orders together one by one. But, from my travels, these types of quick service/casual eateries generally are very popular and busy.

The main thing is to offer quality fresh ingredients and stay focused on a handful of select items( ie. In and out hamburgers...what do they have...3 items on the whole menu?). As Erik mentioned, quesadillas would probably take the most time. I think this makes for faster service and a better overall product. Being able to focus on a few main items(Burritos, tacos, quesadillas) Yet allowing the customer to create varying styles and tastes to his/her liking.

Alas, I'm no expert, that's why I am hear to learn from the masses.

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....I think the popularity of these places(Jakes,Chipotle, Subway) is because of the fact that the customer gets to create his/her own product. Whether or not you have a cashier take your order and you sit and wait, or if your wait is spent in the assembly line. A 15 person wait is still a 15 person wait. Does that make any sense?....

My example actually occurred. Having been in line behind the office worker buying sandwiches for her entire office staff at a Subway Sandwich shop with each sandwich having its own list of ingredients, it's easy to see why I'm not a fan of these kind of places. I'll go to such places during off-hours, but never during their busy times since getting served will take longer than I think it really should meaning longer than my patience can endure.

That's also why I've got a pat answer in these places when asked what I want on my sandwich: "Everything" or "Whatever it comes with". It's the answer that gets me and my to-go order out of there the quickest.

Of course it's easier and faster for a worker to assemble the food item looking at the order printout than having to schlep through the assembly line while the customer picks this but not that, and that but not this.

I guess it's a trade-off of efficiency (in my opinion) versus letting the customer have the control of creating their own product and you know on which side I land with this issue.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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I know what you mean, getting stuck behind the person doing the lunch run for 10 at Subway.

Here's what I will do. When I get my place up and running, I'll be sure to offer a taste so irristable that even you won't mind standing behind the office errand boy placing orders for half his co workers. I'll keep you posted for opening day 2007.

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Anybody out there own or work in a quick service burrito/taco shop? I'm looking to open one up and would appreciate any kind of information from someone in this style of food industry. I would like to serve burritos, tacos, quesadillas, salad in an assembly line style, where the customers watches and picks what he/she want on their burrito. In and out in a short amount of time. Very simlilar to a Chipotle or Qdoba. It's a small 1300 sq. ft suite in a 12 suite mini shopping center. It's in a great location, but construction of the facilty won't be complete for 12-18 months. Should be ample time to research, and possible work in a small place for a several months to gain experience. Seeking any kind of advice from start up, equipment, product, pitfalls,... etc...I'm all ears....or should I say all eyes.

Really, you should come to SF and the mission. There are so many "taquerias" that fit your description. Look at Erik's burritoeater.com link, eat all of them, see what you like about each, and incorporate that into your shop. Once you eat at some of the top places, you won't be mentioning Chipotle as a role model.

And just let me know if you need any eating buddies, as my roommate eats burritos at least 4 times a week.

Good luck.

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I think the cashier method is better for a couple of reasons. First the customer will be reading the menu in line, and have an idea what they want before they arrive at the cashier. And this style will usually have a variety of named items ie. the Pinche Madre Burrito: meat (of your chioce) rice, beans, cheese, pico, guac, and sour cream. It is easier for a customer to say "I want a Beef Pinche Madre, no guac" Than Listing all the ingrediants to in a covayor belt with many umms in between each.

As long as you offer a wide variety of combos of ingrediants to choose from it will be faster.

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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Trying to avoid this rant...but, man I hate Subway.

I was running a bit long on my lunch hour after some compulsive shopping (Woo! Sa Cha BBQ Sauce!) at an asian market near work, so I decided I would pick up a sandwich on the way back. Subway is there between the elevator and the door to my work, so it was convenient.

OK, $4 gets you a 6" sandwich. What do you really get, though? What must be less than a combination of an 1/8th of a pound of meat and cheese, shredded iceberg lettuce, 2 slices of plastic tomato, 2 slices of pickle, and a sprinkling of pepperoncini arranged on a piece of bread that could generously be described as card board. The total food cost for it has to be less than .75 cents, especially since it all comes sealed in plastic from some factory in the central valley.

Avoid Sysco like the plague. If you want your food to stand out, make as much of your menu from scratch as is possible, and have as much hand in the selection of ingredients as you can stand. Drive to produce wholesalers, and purchase your specialty produce yourself. Drive to Latin wholesale places and buy your tortillas, beans and chiles. Establish relationships with local suppliers, produce companies, and even farmers.

The food service companies want to be your one stop shop. They want you to buy your canned tomatoes, produce, beans, styrofoam trays, and everything else from them. And they will undercut the prices of any other suppliers you choose to do business with to get your business. And the prices will be low, at least for a while. Then the prices will creep up, and you will realize you've been paying 10% more than the market rate for the convenience of ordering everything from the same spigot.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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[...]I was running a bit long on my lunch hour after some compulsive shopping (Woo!  Sa Cha BBQ Sauce!) at an asian market near work, [...]

Erik: What are you using the Sa Cha BBQ Sauce for? A dip for your Subway sandwich? (Which may not be a bad idea...) :raz:

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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[...]I was running a bit long on my lunch hour after some compulsive shopping (Woo!  Sa Cha BBQ Sauce!) at an asian market near work, [...]

Erik: What are you using the Sa Cha BBQ Sauce for? A dip for your Subway sandwich? (Which may not be a bad idea...) :raz:

:laugh::laugh: I don't think you want to go there. Sa Cha sauce with a Subway Sandwich?? :laugh::laugh:

back to topic ...

lbj23lbj, how much research have you done on your demographics? Who will be your customer base? Downtown office workers? Moms & kids in the neighborhood? Drivers along the 99 freeway? Just a few questions to think about, at first ...

Have you thought of offering lamb and/or goat meat for your burritos? I heard at a recent BBQ I went to that California is the 3rd largest state in the US for providing lamb.

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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Erik:  What are you using the Sa Cha BBQ Sauce for?  A dip for your Subway sandwich?  (Which may not be a bad idea...)  :raz:

hzrt8w,

Your delicious Beef with Sa Cha Sauce Clay Pot, of course!

;-)

I hadn't thought about Sa Cha's applications for burritos or sandwiches.

Actually, with a touch more vinegar, it might not make a bad sandwich sauce on a sort of asian style steak sandwich.

Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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hzrt8w,

Your delicious Beef with Sa Cha Sauce Clay Pot, of course!

You sure know how to make people feel like champions! :laugh:

Actually, you can use Sa Cha Sauce to make Satay: just mix (cook) it with some chopped onions, curry powder, salt and some ground peanuts (or I use peanut butter, yes cheating a little bit). And some coconut milk too. You can use it as a base for Satay Beef, Satay Chicken, etc.. Good to roll it up with pita bread, or a tortilla to make it a "burrito".

Some Southeast Asian touch... if you are tired of your regular sandwiches.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Make sure you have great, tasty carnitas. Great carnitas pull this girl in anyway. Also important, well-flavored salsas with a range of spiciness including hot and including some green chile and tomatillo-based salsas. Good tasting fresh tortillas. Flavorful pinto beans; nice if these can be cooked with pork, although some non-pork beans would probably also be needed. Horchatas, cold beer and nice agua frescas would also be nice.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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My location is adjacent to an automall with 16 dealerships averaging 150-300 employees per store. It's safe to say most of my revenue will be coming from the lunch crowd. I'm also near a well established neighborhood as well as many small businesses which should bring in customers throughout the day. A Starbucks may be moving into the suite 2 down from my proposed site, so having them next door should help bring in a hungry crown and make for a great location.

As far as carnitas, that's a no brainer. They will definitely find a home on my small selection of meats along with steak and chicken(white only). I plan on cooking my own beans(black and pinto) maybe refried too. Fortunately, I've located a tortilleria in town that makes delicious fresh flour and corn tortillas daily. I will look to use them and promote the local homemade aspect to attract more customers. Just like any great sandwich is all about the bread, so too is a great burrito all about the tortilla. At least that's my opinion. Nothing beats a soft homemade flour tortilla cooked up just to the brink of flakeyness. Hmmmmm...... I think I'll go work out some recipes right now.....

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Fortunately, I've located a tortilleria in town that makes delicious fresh flour and corn tortillas daily. I will look to use them and promote the local homemade aspect to attract more customers. Just like any great sandwich is all about the bread, so too is a great burrito all about the tortilla. At least that's my opinion. Nothing beats a soft homemade flour tortilla cooked up just to the brink of flakeyness. Hmmmmm...... I think I'll go work out some recipes right now.....

Words to live by! And putting them on the griddle instead of steaming...<Homer Simpson drool>

Any thoughts on cheeses?

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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Probably a jack and cheddar combo. Although I notice many taquerias solely use jack, I find that the bit a sharpness from cheddar makes for a better quesadilla. Or I could leave it up to the customer and offer both separately.

Salsas will be limited to a mild red and hot red, a mild tomatillo green, pico de gallo and maybe a corn salsa. Thinking about doing away with hard shell taco and just offer soft flour tortillas and soft corn tortillas grilled quickly. And not to forget the veggie lover, I'll offer a tasty grilled vegetable medley of various peppers and onions.

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Queso fresco and cotijo are pretty easy to get now and the cotija is especially good crumbled on top of beans and tacos. Neither is so assertive that people expecting jack would be put off, IMO. Good cotijo has a slightly tart creaminess that's more complex than jack. It's just my taste, but I find cheddars to be too bitter for this kind of food.

How about nopales for the veggie lovers?

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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