Abuelo's Puts The Sizzle Back Into Its Fajitas

Abuelo’s chain of Mexican restaurants has transformed its fajitas by examining every aspect of the dishes.

“Our fajitas were fine but not exceptional,” says Neil Culbertson, chief marketing officer. “And we perceive ourselves as delivering a better—if not the best—Mexican experience. So how could we have something on our menu that was undifferentiated versus all our competition?”

So Abuelo’s examined every aspect of its fajita dishes: the proteins, the vegetables, and the “carriers” (the tortillas), and is running a limited time “Fajita Fiesta” menu through August 8 to test out its new offerings.

The proteins came first. The chain originally offered chicken, steak, shrimp, and vegetarian fajitas, which were “generic,” Culbertson says, so four new options have been added:

  • Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Shrimp Fajitas—Wood-grilled, bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with jalapeño and blended cheeses
  • Fajitas Pescado—Wood-grilled tilapia filets topped with creamy garlic sauce
  • Fajitas Al Pastor—Pork tenderloin topped with pineapple and basted in Al Pastor sauce, a spicy- sweet Mexican glaze made with guajillo peppers
  • Mexican Sausage Fajitas—Wood-grilled pork sausage seasoned with jalapeño and cilantro.

“We wanted to see how far we could push it,” Culbertson adds.

The vegetables were also ramped up. “Everybody out there uses bell peppers and onions,” Culbertson says, “so we did some testing and added broccoli, green and red bell peppers, zucchini and squash. We’ve received more comments on the vegetables in our fajitas than anything else.”

Customers now have a lot more ability to customize the meal they want, he adds, and this also includes what their fajita is wrapped in. In addition to flour tortillas, they can now chose between corn tortillas and romaine lettuce wraps.

The presentation of the fajitas is also better,” Culbertson points out, with the vegetable blend served under the proteins.

Abuelo’s is marketing the new LTO fajitas by offering guests a menu dedicated to them, alongside the regular menu. Information is also in the regular menu and the company has used Facebook and its email marketing to get the word out.

“We do think that extraordinary fajitas will speak to customers,” Culbertson explains, but we’ll also have a server incentive program at the restaurants.”

By Amanda Baltazar


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