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A Sonora Grill restaurant in Querétaro. A Sonora Grill restaurant in Querétaro.

Sonora Grill to expand in Mexico, enter United States market

The company will open as many as 20 restaurants this year

Mexico City-based restaurant operator Sonora Grill Group has big plans for expansion in 2020 and beyond.

The company, which started as a taco restaurant in Mexico City’s Del Valle neighborhood in 2004, plans to increase its presence in Mexico by 50% this year and is aiming to enter the U.S. market by 2022.

Founder and CEO Ricardo Añorve said the company plans to open 15-20 restaurants in 2020 with an investment of around 800 million pesos (US $42.6 million).

He said the growth will be through all of the group’s brands, which include Sonora Grill, Sonora Grill Prime, Parrilla Urbana, Terraza Stella and Holstein, as well as Fisher’s, a seafood chain that the company is now developing.

The number of openings in 2020 will be the largest in the group’s history. In 2019, the company opened six outlets in Mexico and signed a deal to develop the Fisher’s brand.

Añorve says the goal is not only to continue to expand in Mexico, where there is a good market for grilled meat, but out of the country as well, for which they are looking for alliances.

“We have talked about having alliances with an [investment] fund that can help us grow the company more rapidly and even export the brand. We really like the United States because it’s a place that eats meat and likes Mexican stuff, tacos, meat and Mexican wine. It’s a market that is very interesting to us and we’re now looking toward it,” he said.

The company is already carrying out market studies in the United States and plans to break into the market there with the help of a U.S. restaurant operator.

The brand is aiming to break into the restaurant markets of Texas and California, markets that are good due to the presence of Mexican populations and influence.

“We also like Chicago, Nevada and other markets for growth,” said Añorve, who hopes to open the brand’s first unit in the United States in 2022.

Some U.S. restaurant operators are thinking of going in the opposite direction, bringing concepts to Mexico. Such is the case with Hema Group, which is planning on bringing the Arby’s fast food chain south of the border.

But the short-term forecast for the U.S. restaurant industry isn’t looking good according to some measures. A survey of credit cardholders carried out by Capital One revealed that 71% are considering saving money, for which 51% plan on reducing how much they spend eating out.

Still, according to a study by real estate brokerage firm CBRE, the U.S. restaurant sector has maintained positive growth rates in recent years thanks to technological advances in food delivery services and ghost restaurants (delivery-only establishments). In 2018, the sector grew 6.3%, its biggest growth rate since 2015.

Source: Expansión (sp)

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