|The ribbon cutting celebrating the Grand Opening of Barbacoa Kennesaw, February 2015|
Barbacoa closed in Kennesaw.
Salt Lake City, Utah-based Barbacoa Mexican Grill has closed its first and only Georgia location in Kennesaw at the Shoppes at Ridenour in a former Johnny's Pizza. The roughly 2,300 square foot space sat just off Barrett Parkway in a center home to Dunkin' Donuts, Dickey's BBQ, Keegan's Public House and a host of other retailers and services.
According to a January 15th Facebook posting, the restaurant closed "Due to unforeseen circumstances." I don't know for sure, but I'm gonna guess the food not being good and the recent opening of a second Willy's Mexicana Grill in Kennesaw didn't help.
According to the same Facebook post, the restaurant will continue to offer catering services and will reportedly have a new Facebook page and additional information up "soon."
The Barabcoa was owned and operated by a local franchisee and opened in late 2014. At the time, there was talk of at least two additional locations in metro Atlanta, but those plans have since been abandoned.
I ate at Barbacoa once and found the food bland, unexciting, and in the case of my burrito bowl, inexplicably full of water.
At the time of the Kennesaw opening, Barbacoa operated ten locations in their home state of Utah and that remains the case, but the chain has also added what are likely franchised locations in Inlet Beach, Florida and Westwood, California.
Out of state burrito chains have had mixed success in metro Atlanta. National players Baja Fresh and Qdoba have struggled in Atlanta, where each has closed locations.
Regional chain Mojo Burrito, based in Chattanooga, opened a location in Dunwoody in early 2014, but by late 2014 it had closed. Panchero's Mexican Grill opened in downtown Atlanta in 2009, but closed less than a year later.
Despite contamination concerns, Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill continues to expand in Atlanta, planning locations in both Sandy Springs and Duluth. Moe's Southwest Grill, which started in Buckhead, also continues to expand and is now a national player in the burrito business. Willy's Mexicana Grill, a local favorite of mine, recently opened a second location in Kennesaw and is opening soon in Alpharetta and Lawrenceville. Barberitos, another local burrito business, is also expanding but has struggled in their penetration of the metro Atlanta area.
Overall, unless you are a "cult" favorite or a brand with tremendous visibility, (i.e. Culver's, In-N-Out Burger, Cook Out, Chick-fil-A's westward move), it's crazy to think you will do well, especially with only a single, poorly located restaurant in a new market.
Did you ever visit Barbacoa? What are your thoughts on regional chains penetrating new markets? What's the one chain you'd love to see come to metro Atlanta? (I for one would love for El Pollo Loco to return.)
Please share your thoughts below.