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Salsarita's coming to North Mississippi in 2013

National Mexican cantina chain Salsarita’s will open new locations in Mississippi according to a new development agreement.

According to a press release, the company will open 10 locations throughout Mississippi over the next five years. Area developer J.C. Clark, a leading franchisee for McAlister’s Deli, will lead the expansion.

“Salsarita’s is a category leader that is poised for strong growth nationwide, and I am eager to help the brand grow in my home market of Mississippi and beyond,” Clark is quoted as saying.

According to the agreement, Clark is expected to open the first two restaurants next year, and is already focusing on the north Mississippi markets of Tupelo and Oxford as well as the Olive Branch and Southaven communities.

There are more than 80 franchised Salsarita’s locations in 19 states and the company’s long-range projections reportedly call for opening more than 300 locations nationwide over the next several years.

Clark and Salsarita’s Salsarita’s CEO Phil Friedman answered questions about the announcement in the following e-mail exchanges with the Mississippi Business Journal.

MBJ: What specifically can you tell us about the Salsarita’s branches that will open in Mississippi? Are there timetables or job sites planned yet?

Clark: We have a ten-unit development agreement, with a projected growth rate of two locations per year.  We look for high visibility sites, 2,500-2,800 square feet with a patio and are focusing on North Mississippi, specifically Olive Branch, Southaven, Tupelo and Oxford.  Once we are up and running, our plan will be to get to the central and southern parts of the state.

MBJ: What sets Salsarita’s apart from other “new Mexican” brands in Mississippi?

Clark: What I feel Salsarita’s offers the customer, is fresh made to order product with a clean, comfortable  and fun environment at price point that all can enjoy. We are a fast causal concept with an ordering and service system similar to the McAlister’s restaurants we developed throughout the state. Additionally Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina is dedicated to  innovated menu offerings as it develops unique salsas and recipes.

Friedman: Salsarita’s has many unique aspects that appeal to guests, including being a leader in creating salsas.  We are a Fresh Mexican Cantina, which is a new and distinct positioning in a dynamic and growing segment of the restaurant marketplace. Our dining room is comfortable and fun to be in. We offer guests signature dishes such as Cantizzas, a Mexican-style pizza, and Casaritos,  warm, sauced folk, plated burritos,complete with house-made salsas, seasoned tortilla chips in multiple sizes and catering options.  Guests can enjoy a variety of options with swift service and are welcome to stay and enjoy the warm and vibrant atmosphere of the cantina.

MBJ: What sorts of challenges are ahead for the brand as it moves to Mississippi? What has the company had to deal with or overcome in the last 3-5 years from an economic or industry standpoint?

Friedman: As we introduce a new brand to the state it is important for us to choose quality real estate in leading retail markets. Additionally since we are embarking on a rapid growth plan we will focus on hiring and developing a young team of excellent managers and staff capable of growing with us and dedicated to providing excellent food and service to our guests.  The economic environment will require us to maintain our competitive edge. We know from other markets that Salsarita’s is a winning brand in terms of the guest experience and  financial returns. We also know from our prior success in the state that Mississippi will prove to be great for our Salsarita’s investors as well.

Through my very successful experience as CEO with McAlister’s I learned the value of doing business in Mississippi. It was my goal when I left McAlister’s to stay involved in the state and bring business to it. The Salsarita’s opportunity, supported by a group of Mississippi investors and lead by Mississippian John Clark, is a great way to do just that.

About Stephen McDill

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