Consider the humble burrito. The ancient Aztecs invented it; the conquering Spaniards adopted it; the Mexicans refined it. Now BarBurrito Restaurants raises the venerable tortilla wrap to the next level.
By Jack Kohane
“Ours is a Tex-Mex, grill-style burrito,” says Alex Shtein, co-founder and president of the Canadian franchise operation headquartered in Toronto. “We feature eight different kinds of burritos. It’s an alternative to burgers and sub sandwiches for the time-strapped lunch crowd.”
Crammed with ground beef, steak, chicken, and pork chorizo, the burritos are marinated in a custom-spiced blend before cooking, then made to order topped with Mexican rice, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, beans, fresh veggies, sour cream, burrito sauce, salsa and guacamole.
Founded in 2005 in one downtown Toronto storefront selling a mere handful of burritos, BarBurrito Restaurants currently operates franchised locations in Ontario pumping out 12,000+ wraps weekly in addition to quesadillas and tacos.
Shtein says the reason for BarBurrito’s success is that people are exposed more than ever to different cultures through work, school and travel.
Diversification and fusion are the buzz words of the food biz. Diversification is the proliferation of distinct foods, specialty stores and restaurants focused on traditional ingredients, recipes or types of cuisine. Fusion is a combination of two cuisine types or ethnic styles.
“Our products blend both these styles, and we’re about getting back to basics, food that’s simple and nutritious,” Shtein notes. “With the growing demand for ethnic and street-food inspired foods, we can offer consumers something truly different.”
Key to this culinary mindshift is the changing Canadian demographic. According to Ag-Canada, in 2001, 13 percent of the Canadian population was considered to be a “visible minority”; that’s projected to reach 20 percent by 2017 (the South Asian population is expected to increase the fastest).
Ethnic foods are among the fastest growing menu items at full service restaurants (FSR).
According to NPD Group market statistics: 73 per cent of FSR consumers would like to see greater menu variety or new and different offerings; 70 per cent of FSR customers would order ethnic menu items more frequently if available; 28 per cent of FSR visitors would order more frequently if more Thai-influenced items were offered; and 21 per cent if more Chinese-influenced food were offered.
In a world of possibilities, opportunities for recipe innovation are limitless.
7 top tips to spice up your menu
- Consider fusion cuisine that blends international flavours and recipes with North American style cuisine to create a variety of unique dishes.
- Try ethnic inspired toppings such as wonton, tortilla strips, pita, nuts and seeds, which add excitement and interest to salads.
- For an Asian touch, toss chicken strips with salad leaves and dress with low salt soy sauce, mirin and lime juice.
- Try rice noodles instead of pasta in salads to add an interesting texture.
- Know the cultural mix in your area, tailor your menu offerings to reflect those national/regional tastes, cooking methods and ingredients.
- Keep it real by ensuring ethnic eats taste authentic. Consider that dishes prepared by someone from that region boost your menu’s credibility.
- Carefully describe every ethnic-inspired dish in your menu, so customers know what to expect. Use colourful, enticing and exotic-sounding words, but add a translation into English.