“I think over the last several years, what’s been important in our industry is a focused menu—clean, fresh, craveable—and in a manageable box. … We bring the perfect sort of balance of speed if you want more of a fast casual experience,” Artinian says. “So, given our focused menu in being built for quality and speed, we’ve been able to meet this interesting need with the emergence of fast casual, but still [meet consumers’] desire for experience.”
Limited-service restaurants, while still negatively impacted by COVID-19, were more insulated than their sit-down counterparts. But full-service restaurants that toed the fast-casual line were better positioned to succeed this past year.
That’s not to say operators needed a strong off-premises program pre-pandemic or that restaurants doing robust takeaway sales were guaranteed expansion opportunities. Both factors certainly helped, but growth largely came down to cash flow, existing commitments, and franchisee buy-in.
Little help from my friends—and investors
Only a few weeks before the coronavirus struck the U.S., Condado Tacos closed a deal with The Beekman Group, where Artinian was the managing director for the private equity firm’s restaurant and consumer channels. The fresh injection of capital helped the brand continue expanding, even if the actual store openings fell a few shops short of the ideal target.
Now growth is ramping back toward The Beekman Group’s initial targets; it will add nine new units this year and 10–12 in 2022, with an eventual pace of 12–15 per year.
Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants slowed its growth in 2020 but didn’t stop entirely. The pandemic did, however, force the wine-driven concept to spend a few months reevaluating its path forward.