Thursday, April 15, 2021

[EXCLUSIVE] Searching for Franchise Success, Surcheros to Open New Atlanta Outpost

A small town quick-serve Mexican eatery is making a big play at metro Atlanta.  Surcheros, founded in Douglas, Georgia in 2007, will later this year open its first metro Atlanta outpost with a restaurant planned for Main Street in Alpharetta. (Surcheros has had a location "coming soon" to Alpharetta since at least August 2020.) The new Surcheros, which recently started renovation work, will open in the former Hardee's at 91 Main Street in Downtown Alpharetta.  Hardee's closed its Alpharetta outpost this past August after nearly forty years in business.  

Plans call for the 3,335 square foot restaurant to be completely renovated to better match the aesthetic of Alpharetta City Center and other neighboring businesses.  The circa 1983 building will be updated to suit the restaurant's needs but will also be enhanced with a patio and improved fa├žade and landscape features.  Renderings supplied to the City of Alpharetta also indicate that the all important drive-thru will remain in place for the new restaurant.    

The menu at Surcheros is not unlike the menus of fellow quick-serve Mexican eateries such as Willy's, Moe's and Chipotle, with an emphasis on burritos & bowls, tacos, nachos, quesadillas and salads.  The one key menu difference is the offering of a "s’mores quesadilla," described as a tortilla filled with "yummy s’mores filling," finished with powdered sugar and Hershey’s chocolate syrup.

Luke Christian opened the first Ranchero's Fresh Grill in Douglas, about three and a half hours from metro Atlanta, in 2007.  Following the opening of locations in Waycross in 2008 and Tifton in 2012, Christian made the decision to rebrand the concept as Surcheros Fresh Grill in November 2016.  The rebrand coincided with the launch of the restaurant's franchising effort.  In the years since the rebrand, and primarily through franchising, the small town chain has grown to include fourteen additional locations in Georgia as well as a single unit in Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach, Florida.  A franchised Surcheros opened in the Atlanta suburb of Loganville in late 2018 but by early 2020 it had closed.   

Barberitos, based in Athens, has had limited success intown with locations in Buckhead, Sandy Springs, East Cobb and Roswell having all closed.  That said, the chain, which started in 2000, now has more than 50 locations in Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida, with several more "coming soon."  Barberitos, like Surcheros, has seemingly found success in smaller markets that have gone ignored or under-developed by larger national chains.  In fact, in several smaller markets such as Statesboro, Tifton, Macon and Fernandina Beach, among others, Barberitos and Surcheros both operate restaurants.  

Pending unforeseen renovation and permitting delays, the hope is to have the new Alpharetta Surcheros open in mid to late September, according to sources familiar with the restaurant's plans.  The Alpharetta location will reportedly be franchise owned.  Christian reportedly has plans to open several other Atlanta area locations that will be a mix of corporate and franchised units.  

The decision to open Surcheros in Alpharetta was likely since there is no other similar restaurant in the immediate area.  Alpharetta is already home to several Moe's, Willy's and Chipotle restaurants, but they, like so many other chain restaurants, are concentrated along Mansell Road, Windward Parkway, Haynes Bridge Road and in the North Point Mall area.  That said, the new-to-market concept will no doubt have its work cut out for it as it tries to establish itself in an incredibly competitive and brand-loyal market.  

ToNeTo Atlanta reported this past August on the plans of Tennesse-based Dos Bros Mexican Grill which intends to open their first metro Atlanta location in Sandy Springs.  In our August report we detailed the struggles of several other new-to-market quick-serve Mexican chains that have closed some or all of their Atlanta area units.  

Have you ever been to a Surcheros?  What is your favorite quick serve Mexican eatery?  Will a s'mores quesadilla make you a Surcheros fan?

Please share your thoughts below. 


BigRedDogATL said...

The Alpharetta area is saturated with Mexican restaurants, as well as tons of Pizza parlors and Burger joints. Unless this Surcheros Grill has a Beer/Wine/Liquor license, I don't expect it to last very long in the Downtown Alpharetta food scene.

I was really hoping that the former Hardee's fast food location would be taken over by a fast food Seafood restaurant. My ideal would be an Ivar's Seafood, which is best known in the Seattle area. If not an Ivar's, then at least a decent Captain D's or Long John Silvers.

The area needs more Food Diversity!

Agent1 said...

They had one in Loganville for a while. It like a step down from chipolte. They started charging the customer for water cups so I stopped going. They went under less than 6 months later.

JetPack said...

First of all, where did the notion of Ivar's opening a location 3000 miles away from its Seattle base come from? Yes it's good for seafood but they barely get out of the Puget Sound area so dream on. Secondly, there is no such thing as a decent Capt. D's and definitely not a Long John Silvers.

Secondly, Surchero's DOES have a Beer/Wine/Liquor license. Plenty of tequila in the fridge.

Third, I don't know what they do down in Loganville but the Alpharetta Surchero's is a giant step up from a Chipotle, both in terms of freshness and the atmosphere. There is an expansive covered patio, as well as a deck in the interior decor is definitely upscale.

As far as charging for water cups, they have stated the reason for this is dishonesty of customers who have asked for water cups and then felt perfectly fine filling it with Coca-Cola. If you are a regular customer they likely won't charge you but if all you really want is water probably best to tote a bottle in with you. By the way, they are far from the only restaurant the charges for water cups; full-service restaurants charging for the water itself has become a norm.

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