Zambrero finds “future-proof” longevity in flexible locations

In one of his first interviews as CEO, Matt Kenny elaborates on the brand’s “customer-first” mindset and how it is looking to get a bigger bite in the snacking scene.

In a bid to “future-proof” the business, Zambrero is focusing on building “flexible” restaurants that will enable them to service off-premise orders such as delivery, drive-thru or pick-up without impacting their in-store experience.

Chief executive for Australia Matt Kenny confirmed the Mexican restaurant chain is planning to open at least 20 stores of this kind in metropolitan areas, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, this year as part of a larger goal to breach the 300-store mark and donate 50 million meals in their Plate 4 Plate initiative.

“Whilst there is a big QSR contingent already, and it would seem saturated, we feel there's a market for us. We feel we offer a differing experience in that “feel-good Mex” space and I have no doubt that we can be very successful,” he told QSR Media. “Zambrero is kind of this big little secret in certain parts of Australia...that's what we're out to change.”

As of this writing, Zambrero stands at 200 stores globally and has given out 46 million meals.

“We've been building restaurants with second lines in the back of house, so that we can have delivery-only lines that don't impact upfront customer service,” he said. “We’ve also been adding second lines to existing restaurants to enable us to take advantage of all sales channels as efficiently as possible."

Regional “strongholds” will also get the same treatment, with Kenny revealing plans to add second restaurants “where they can” to get a bigger share.

Kenny assumed the role of CEO of Zambrero Australia in July 2020 after spending years with parent company Sam Prince Group as both general counsel and chief operating officer. Kenny now works closely with the brand’s CEO of North America, Bianca Azzopardi, who previously headed up the domestic business and now spearheads the business’ ambitious global growth plan.

“Given our growth trajectory, Bianca really needed to focus on the US so I came in to really take the load off from the Australian side,” he said. “It’s been a wild ride...and all our restaurants experienced things differently.”

“For me, it was all about putting ourselves in the position of our restaurants, being empathetic, making sure that they had the tools to be able to continue to serve customers; I think we did that really well. It's a real credit to our franchise partners and all our restaurant staff, because without them trading on the frontlines and continuing to do their job, we wouldn't be in the position we’re in now.”

Reflecting on the industry as a whole, Kenny says the pandemic brought the sector closer to what’s happening in the U.S. in terms of ordering ahead and pick-up.

“Everything that's happened in Australia with COVID-19 has fast tracked the industry to that dynamic already,” he said. “Obviously, the aggregators coming in when they did a few years ago worked perfectly from a timing perspective. Because if they weren't here, and those infrastructures weren't established, I think COVID-19 would have been very different for a lot of businesses.”

Kenny credits his legal and finance background in giving him a fresh set of eyes on the brand to not only navigate the brand through the pandemic-induced headwinds but in identifying opportunities moving forward.

“We have 200-plus restaurants around the world, we need to start taking advantage of that scale and making the most of it. The more information we can get off the ground from those restaurants, the better we will be as a collective,” he said.

This, he says, is having a “100 per cent customer-first” mindset.

“Everything is about the customer and what makes it a great experience for them. From my perspective, it's about empowering restaurant staff and putting them in the best possible position to serve our customers great food, with great customer service and a terrific ambience… because if you get those three things right, you’ve set a great platform for success.”

Sticking to the core offering
On the product development side, Zambrero recently launched its $2.90 Street Tacos, which Kenny said is primarily poised as an opportunity to offer a new and varied product but also grow the early afternoon snacking market. The move is also part of the brand’s ethos to focus on improving its core offering, which includes more plant-based alternatives, trying bean variants, and even new dessert options.

“Everyone knows us for what we do well and it's about how we can continue to improve to increase new customer acquisition and to ensure our customer frequency continues to rise,” he said.

“I think our customers are looking for food to travel well [during delivery]...a product that doesn't make them feel too heavy or bloated and that ultimately tastes delicious.”

App slated to launch this year
One key investment is their upcoming app, slated to launch this year.

“It's just a question of timing and making sure it’s 100 per cent ready,” he said. “It'll offer our customers the ability to order directly through the app, whether via pick up or delivery. It will also give customers more insight into our upcoming products, promotions and campaigns. It will also give us a platform to communicate with our customer, which is something I'm really excited about.”

“At the end of the day, our primary focus is to ensure our restaurants are put in the best possible position to succeed, to ensure their longevity no matter what comes. I think that's probably what COVID-19 has really taught us: we need to future proof our business to ensure that we can withstand any change in circumstances...and I’m confident we’re well and truly down that path already.”

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