Tuesday, December 17, 2013

First of its Kind Cabana Grill Coming to Metro Atlanta

First of its kind restaurant opening in metro Atlanta.

Addison, Texas-based Fiesta Restaurant Group Inc. is testing its newest concept, "Cabana Grill" in Snellville.  "Cabana Grill A Taste of Mexico" is described as similar to Taco Cabana but with a slight step up.

Cabana Grill will serve both lunch and dinner, and feature an all important drive-thru at its roughly 3700 square foot freestanding building, an outparcel of the existing Lowe's shopping center on Scenic Highway.  The restaurant will also feature a roughly 540 square foot patio.  

Described by a company executive as a "hybrid approach" Cabana Grill seems to be a "flex casual" format, something tested but abandoned by its sister concept, Pollo Tropical. In this scenario, customers will queue up for the cashier to take their orders and then sit down with a table number, waiting for their food to be delivered to them.  A concept similar to this has previously been tested and abandoned by Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A as well as formerly Atlanta-based concept Mama Fu's Asian House.

Cabana Grill's food is casual and approachable, but still fresh and made to order.  Guest checks are expected to be in the $8-10 range with offerings like fresh, hand-made flour and corn tortillas as well as various scratch-made salsas.  Plans call for Cabana Grill to feature a full drink menu and liquor license to offer house made margaritas, for those dining in.  

Construction is scheduled to begin in late December, with a planned opening in late March or early April.  A second Cabana Grill is in the works to open in Jacksonville, Florida late next year, with company executives planning a second Atlanta area location for 2015.  

Fiesta Restaurant Group was created last year when its former parent company, Syracuse, New York-based Carrols Restaurant Group, spun off both Taco Cabana and Pollo Tropical.  Carrols is the nations largest franchisee of Burger King restaurants and seemingly sought to narrow its focus. Interestingly, this year Carrols stock (NYSE: TAST) is trading at just over $6, up 1%, while Fiesta (NYSE: FRGI) trades at nearly $48, and is up a whopping 212% this year.

Atlanta's only Taco Cabana closed earlier this year.  The restaurant, located on Piedmont Avenue near Cheshire Bridge Road, had been a landmark for years, but allegedly was run by a "rogue" franchisee who last month rebranded the restaurant  Mama's Cocina Latina.  No longer affiliated with Taco Cabana, Mama's Cocina serves a very similar menu and remains open 24 hours.

There are currently five Pollo Tropical restaurants in metro Atlanta, with the two most recent in Cumming and Alpharetta.  The chain had three franchised locations in Atlanta in the mid 90s, but they closed amid lower than expected financial results.  Pollo Tropical's reentry to  the Atlanta market, which started in 2011, has reportedly been largely well received, with reports of large lines after openings and in the weeks that followed.  

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