When Dr. Sam Prince was still a medical student, he funded his education by working at a Mexican restaurant. It was there that he fell in love with the idea of bringing a fresher and healthier side of Mexican cuisine to Australian consumers. Out of that concept, Zambrero was born – and since then, it has been growing fast. Today, the fresh Mexican franchise boasts more than 60 locations and is opening at a rapid pace to reach consumers with feel-good food and a feel-good philanthropic message.
A Franchise with a Cause
“We want to create a global brand that stands for something,” says Stuart Cook, CEO at Zambrero. Philanthropy has been present within the brand in some form or another since day one, and its current outlet for humanitarian work is its Plate 4 Plate program, which works with distribution partner Stop Hunger Now to provide a plate of food to a person in need for every burrito or bowl purchased.
“Sam’s background is parents who were born to very humble beginnings – it’s only through the education process that he was able to have the life he has in Australia,” explains Cook. “Dr. Prince and I don’t really believe in luck except for where you’re born. Part of our goal with this business is to even the playing field by providing every child with clean water and healthy food. That’s why every time we feed somebody at Zambrero, we feed another child overseas.”
At the moment, Zambrero has provided nearly 4 million meals through its Plate 4 Plate program, providing essential support to in-school meal programs and people in impoverished regions and disaster sites in need around the world. Since the one-for-one model means that the strength of Zambrero’s humanitarian work is directly tied to the strength of its sales and franchise growth, that number is expected to double in short order. What’s more: by publicizing its mission, Zambrero is able to educate consumers about humanitarian issues and inspire them to take action.
“There is definitely a feeling of giving back,” says Cook. “Aid work can be very overwhelming. But as the saying goes: how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Just by encouraging people and educating people about it, they can become aware of little things they can do to help. That is a big motivator and differentiator.”
Backing Up the Cause with a Quality Product
Supporting a higher cause is always noble — but when you’re a restaurant franchise first and foremost, noble intentions will only get your business so far. But Zambrero understands this, and is able to confidently stand behind its products just as strongly as its philosophies.
“Giving back, educating people — while all of these things are great, at the end of the day the customer comes to your restaurant for one reason and one reason only: because they’re hungry,” notes Cook. “You must deliver on product time and time again, and one of our philosophies is that you’re only as strong as your weakest menu item. If you go to one of our restaurants, I should be confident in every single one of our menu items.”
Zambrero has put this philosophy into action by creating a menu that is small, sharp, and to the point. “Some other restaurants feel they have to cater to everybody and will have a hundred menu items — but what happens is you get paralysed by choice, and then you get food envy of the person next to you,” says Cook. “So we’re focused on simplicity: making burritos, tacos, and bowls, and making those really well.”
Taking the Cause to a Global Platform
Zambrero has no intention of putting a limit on the audience it can reach or the good that it can put out into the world: next on the agenda for Zambrero is international growth. Zambrero is currently opening one new location every week, and expanding outward into New Zealand with the launch of four new locations across Auckland and Wellington. The franchise is currently looking for the right partners to move into such varied markets as the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. As it grows, the Zambrero team is also focusing on surrounding itself with experienced talent who can help guide the growing business toward international success.
“Like our product, we focus on simplicity with our store design and store build,” says Cook. “We will cater the menu to individual markets, and will accordingly make slight adjustments into each market. But because we’ve built the back end systems incredibly simplified, and our operations are already strong, we can easily work with partners to expand very quickly. So in the next five years, we do have a target of 1,000 in the next five years; probably 250 of those will be within Australia and the rest outside.”