The 10 biggest Mexican franchises in the Australian market

Video Thumb The 10 Biggest Mexican Franchises In The Australian Market

As our Mexican list development progressed, it seemed apparent that a number of casual dining / food franchises, saw Mexican a few years ago as 'the new frontier', and THE opportunity for new growth in their company.

Well, for a number of these brands this has simply not happened, and for varying reasons, some brands have pushed through and emerged from the competition frenzy of about 2010 - 2014.

The key words following a study into Mexican franchises is that they are 'authentic' and 'fresh'! 

They often seem to try to out-do each other in being more authentic than the other, and almost always with a focus on fresh ingredients. Many have their own spin on Mexican food - Baja Southern Californian, Mexican Street Food, Mexican with a Modern Twist, healthy Mexican, and fresh mex.

And more than I can recall in any niche, competing Mexican brands are often stating how poor the offering is of other Mexican food in the market. For certain, this sets the scene for a hyper-competitive future.

We created this list to help make your research and decision making process easier. We'll update as the market changes, and as we get more information for you.

1. Zambrero - 181 locations (AU)

Quite an amazing story, founded by Dr Sam Prince in Canberra in 2005 while a university student. The brand achieved surprising growth over an extended period across 2013 - 2017 or there about's, when other Mexican brands trying to push into the market were seemingly unable to match them for whatever reason, which remains unclear.

The brand featured at #9 in our The 10 biggest fast food franchise in the Australian market.

It has clearly positioned its brand persona around 'helping to end world hunger' with its Plate 4 Plate initiative, and this has been a key pillar of their customer and franchisee related marketing. This initiative is to be highly commended, as a high profile part of this socially conscious brand.

The question with the brand into the future, is one around its ability to attract and retain its customer share of market, with competition increasing rapidly in Mexican offerings in particular, into the Australian market. 

Multi-restaurant ownership is encouraged in the network.

Internationally, expanding into New Zealand, United States and Ireland.

  • CEO = Bianca Azzopardi
  • Headquarters located = Sydney, NSW
  • Franchising Since = 2009
  • Investment = $350k to $450k
  • Initial Franchise fee = $30k
  • Ongoing Fees = Marketing/Advertising: 3% of gross | Royalty: 7% of gross
  • Training = 4 weeks

Social Media Presence 

  • facebook = 201K followers
  • Instagram = 24.6K followers
  • Twitter = 1,705 followers
  • LinkedIn = 4,587 (global) followers

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2. Guzman Y Gomez Mexican Taqueria - 132+ locations (AU)

Arguably the biggest mover in franchising over the course of the last year in profile and market awareness. With no disrespect intended at all, GYG deliberately talk a very big game.

They are clearly working hard to position themselves to be the next big fast casual / food player in the Australian market. Their masterful PR and marketing approaches see it often being referred to in the broader media in the same sentence as McDonald's in franchising - yet GYG has 132 odd locations v McDonald's 900+. They even loaded the board with ex-McDonald's executives!

With a strong stand alone, drive thru focus, mostly removing it from major shopping centre, food court type leasing issues of many food competitors, the brand is investing with franchise partners in the long term. As recent as 2018, $44mil in investment firm funding, then a now suspended drive into the US market, the brand is firming itself up by all reports for ASX listing in 2021.

Founder & CEO Steven Marks is the passionate face of the business leading it forward, and this commitment to be out front as franchisor is to be commended. The key question for would-be franchise partners I believe is, is the balance of the voracious appetite for growth an overwhelming positive, or will it pose potential challenges at an individual location / franchisee level?

One of the best, and most informative food franchise websites I've seen as a consumer.

Internationally, expanding into USA, Singapore, and Japan.

  • CEO = Steven Marks
  • Headquarters located = Surry Hills, NSW
  • Franchising Since = 2010
  • Investment = $576,500 to $1,376,500
  • Initial Franchise fee = $60k
  • Ongoing Fees = 3-4% marketing levy & 8% royalties
  • Training = 12 weeks

Social Media Presence 

  • facebook = 251.2k followers
  • Instagram = 47.6k followers
  • Twitter = 847 followers
  • LinkedIn = 10,800 followers

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3. Mad Mex Fresh Mexican Grill - 56+ locations (AU)

In comparison to a brand like GYG, Mad Mex comes across as of the more under-stated type, as far as it's pitch to potential franchise investors are concerned.

In saying that however, the brand has a persona feel of authenticity and transparency to it.

As part of 'Our Story' prominent on the brand' site Clovis Young (founder) is quoted saying "I started Mad Mex in 2006, because I absolutely love Mexican food, but there is a lot of Mexican food out there, and to be honest it's mostly crap."

Interesting on it's site that it says "Our target market sit at the higher end of the fast food spectrum and we want every customer feeling good about eating at Mad Mex every day, both in terms of value and quality." I can barely recall a brand with that sort of positioning statement so openly made very early in the pitch process.

From what we see from the outside, the brand looks set on careful, considered expansion.

Locations in NSW 55%, VIC 20%, QLD 10%, and WA 15% approximately. 

Internationally in Malaysia, Singapore, and New Zealand.

  • CEO = Clovis Young
  • Headquarters located = Sydney, NSW
  • Franchising Since = 2009
  • Investment = $250k - $550k
  • Initial Franchise fee = $50k
  • Ongoing Fees = 3% marketing fee & 6% royalties
  • Training = 6 weeks

Social Media Presence 

  • facebook = 89.7k followers
  • Instagram = 9.4k followers
  • Twitter = Local branches
  • LinkedIn = 4k followers

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4. Salsas Fresh Mex - 43+ locations (AU)

Argh Salsa's!

I personally believe Salsa's missed a trick a few years ago when Mexican was just starting to boom, and missed a growth opportunity to be a major player in the Mexican market in Australia. Owned and operated by Retail Zoo, who also operate CIBO Espresso, and Boost Juice. Upon personally experiencing the great product and the culture in-store many times, the brand just seemed to hit a wall in expansion at some point.

The Salsa's website lists 5 currently available locations for the brand.

I feel that leveraging more of the Janine Allis' 'star power' was required, just as Boost Juice enjoyed, to elevate the Salsa's brand to the next level, - almost just as Steven Marks is doing right now at GYG. Yet observing from the outside, it seemed Janine stayed a little arms length compared to her profile with Boost.

It is not easy to understand exactly how many stores and their locations the brand has in the market, it may be less than the 'over 43 locations' listed on their website.

  • CEO = Nishad Alani (CEO Retail Zoo)
  • Headquarters located = Chadstone, VIC
  • Franchising Since = 2008
  • Investment = $430k - $650k
  • Initial Franchise fee = TBA
  • Ongoing Fees = 3% marketing fee & 7% royalties
  • Training = 4 weeks

Social Media Presence 

  • facebook = 58.4k followers
  • Instagram = 6.7k followers
  • Twitter = 1k followers
  • LinkedIn = 227 followers

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5. The Burrito Bar - 31 locations

This brand has been quietly going about it's growth and not been high-profiled in it's growth. Established in 2011, "the Burrito Bar was inspired by the streets of San Francisco, where traditional food meets art to create a wholesome experience." 

Their tag line, Burrito Bar Modern Mexican.

This statement stood out to me on the franchise page - "Unlike some other franchises, we also don't engage in high pressure or deceptive sales techniques." In my experience, that is an uncommon statement for a franchisor to make so openly.

Further, the brand is positioning its franchise offer to would-be franchise owners from I gather, their higher-profiled competitors, with "We also offer some of the lowest entry costs, lowest ongoing fees and longest franchise terms for greater security and return on investment."

In another flexible innovation becoming more common in smaller brands trying to compete with bigger Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) brands, the brand has options for adding branded ice cream kiosks, and Smokin Ribs and Burgers - which they refer to as a virtual brand. I can see this aspect getting a bit confusing initially for franchise prospects. 

You can download the brand franchise information brochure without providing details, which is a big tick for transparency.

Approximately 85% of locations are in QLD currently.

  • CEO = Shaun Butcher (GM)
  • Headquarters located = Carseldine, QLD
  • Franchising Since = 2013
  • Investment = $500k - $800k
  • Initial Franchise fee = $30k
  • Ongoing Fees = 4% marketing fee & 5% royalties in Year 1 | 3% marketing fee & 6% royalties in Year 2 | 2% marketing fee & 7% royalties in Year 3
  • Training = 9 weeks

Social Media Presence 

  • facebook = 40.5k followers
  • Instagram = 4k followers
  • Twitter = 10 followers
  • LinkedIn = 156 followers

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6. Taco Bill - 29 locations (AU)

Great name, they obviously grabbed it very, very early - don't you think? 

To be honest, I had not even heard of the brand prior to researching this list with our team. This is not entirely remarkable given every location is in the Victorian market. Quite a long-established success story, having been established in 1967. Position themselves with the 50+ year experience, as 'the Original', and claim to be "...the first company in the country to manufacture corn products.".

Investing in technology with their own app with loyalty membership built-in. This goes some way beyond what a number of larger brands in QSR have achieved. However, at a glance, a brand refresh does look overdue with the look and style of logo and artwork looking quite dated compared to the rest of the market concepts.

The business has been built around dine-in restaurants of 60-200 guests, with an increasing takeaway and delivery market.

You can view and download the brand franchise information brochure without providing details, which is a big tick for transparency.

  • CEO = Tom Kartal
  • Headquarters located = Hamilton, QLD
  • Franchising Since = 1983
  • Investment = $300k - $500k
  • Initial Franchise fee = $50k
  • Ongoing Fees = TBA
  • Training = 4-6 weeks

Social Media Presence 

  • facebook = 15.8k followers
  • Instagram = 1.5k followers
  • Twitter = N/A
  • LinkedIn = N/A

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7. Montezumas - 16 locations

Positioning themselves at 'The Original since 1978'.

From memory, the brand stuck with very similar branding for many, many years. On current checking, the brand has had a refresh and make over for the new market.

Locations available for new franchisees are numerous, and heavily focused in the VIC, then NSW, and then QLD market in order.

Exisiting locations are in QLD (11), NSW (1), VIC (2), SA (2).

  • CEO = TBA
  • Headquarters located = Tugun, QLD
  • Franchising Since = 1991
  • Investment = $450k - $600k
  • Initial Franchise fee = $60k
  • Ongoing Fees = 2% marketing fee & 6% royalties
  • Training = 8 weeks

Social Media Presence 

  • facebook = 21.1k followers
  • Instagram = 2.3k followers
  • Twitter = Local branches
  • LinkedIn = 65 followers

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8. Taco Bell - 16 locations (AU)

The global Mexican giant owned by Yum! Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut), with 6,500+ locations globally, and currently 16 locations in the Australian market, with plans for 100+ over the next few years. The brand is split into development by different rights holders in Australia with Restaurant Brands Group for NSW and ACT, and Collins Food Group in QLD and VIC.

The brand does not have a franchise investment option on it's website for Australia at this point. However, as a major global franchised brand, and the significant potential impact the brand is, and will have on this market, and its Mexican competitors, means it should be noted on this list.

It does have a 'Development' tab on it's site for submitting Taco Bell potential property locations, which is crucial going forward in the market with the competition also grabbing stand alone drive thru properties, as many QSR's free themselves of shopping centre encumbrances to growth and profitability. 

Watch how this brand changes the market for the Mexican niche. Arguably, more Mexican food exposure mainstreamed, can benefit smaller players, especially those positioning heavily in ingredient freshness and authenticity.

  • CEO = TBA
  • Headquarters located = Hamilton, QLD
  • Franchising Since = 1964 (founded)
  • Investment = $525k - $2.6mil (US numbers as an example)
  • Initial Franchise fee = $25k (US numbers as an example)
  • Ongoing Fees = 4.25% marketing fee & 5.5% royalties   (US numbers as an example)
  • Training = TBA

Social Media Presence 

  • facebook = 65.4k followers
  • Instagram = 21.9k followers
  • Twitter = 1.3k followers
  • LinkedIn = 697 followers

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9. Hecho En Mexico - 6 locations

Another entirely VIC focused Mexican brand with locations all in Melbourne.

The brand presents as one at an early stage of franchising with limited information on the site other than a form to enquire for potential franchise partners. It is unclear how many of the locations in the business currently are company or franchise owned.

A great community focus with an initiative to help international students currently in Melbourne and who are struggling due to the pandemic - inviting them to their Fitzroy location EVERY DAY for a free meal within a time window. 

  • CEO = Menak Grover and Perveen Bajar (founders)
  • Headquarters located = Melbourne, VIC
  • Franchising Since = 2018
  • Investment = $375k+
  • Initial Franchise fee = TBA
  • Ongoing Fees = TBA
  • Training = TBA

Social Media Presence 

  • facebook = 2.6k followers
  • Instagram = 4.1k followers
  • Twitter = 67 followers
  • LinkedIn = N/A

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10. Funky Mexican Cantina - 6 locations

Owned by Hog's Breath Cafe, the brand has very limited presence online. In fact the brand facebook page has not had a post since March this year. The website primarily serves the purpose of diverting people to delivery platforms for ordering food.

The brand website has very few links for any further presentation of information, however the facebook page gives an indication as to the strategy with, "After 24 years and over 80 restaurants, Australia's leading casual dining restaurant concept Hog's Breath Cafe has identified that there is an opportunity for a unique, authentic Mexican full service restaurant with a modern and vibrant twist.

For locations, the brand has 3 in NSW, 2 in VIC, and 1 in QLD. Looking at the web presence would suggest that the offering of franchise opportunities is not on the agenda atm.

  • CEO = TBA
  • Headquarters located = Cleveland, QLD
  • Franchising Since = 2017
  • Investment = $450k - $650k
  • Initial Franchise fee = TBA
  • Ongoing Fees = TBA
  • Training = TBA

Social Media Presence 

  • facebook = 1k followers
  • Instagram = 185 followers
  • Twitter = N/A
  • LinkedIn = N/A

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Note: And of course, please contact the brands direct for the most up to date information, as while we've done our best to be as accurate as possible, we know some of this information can be a moving target at times unfortunately!