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Barburrito expands

Jonathan Schofield interviews Morgan Davies about filling 'fast casual' food

Written by . Published on January 6th 2011.

Barburrito expands

Barburrito is expanding. The self-styled ‘fast casual’ burrito bar has just opened on Deansgate, opposite The Living Room. This week it opens on The Headrow, in Leeds.These two stores will join the three existing stores in Piccadilly Gardens, the Trafford Centre and Liverpool.

Funnily enough people in Liverpool have taken to it quicker than they did in Manchester. Then again Liverpool had more Mexican restaurants so people understood the product better.

I asked Morgan Davies, one of the co-owners with Paul Kilpatrick, if there were any more on their way.

“Oh yes,” said Davies, “we’ve got more Barburritos planned. Burritos as a food has yet to go big in the UK, given the scale of the market in North America. We certainly have more places in the pipeline.”

The talk of pipelines, made me wonder whether, given its location in the Gulf of Mexico, BP might use burritos to plug that oil leak - big ones. Nothing else is working and they are really filling and very reasonably priced.

“Two questions there,” I said, dismissing oil leaks from my mind. “Why haven’t burritos made it big and how come you can open more Barburritos at such a grim time economically?”

Davies answers the second question first.

“We have been pretty recession proof as a business. Our customers are not price sensitive. They are willing to pay £5-£6 with us as opposed to maybe spending £15 at lunch for a more formal experience. We’ve picked up 30% year on year turnover which we're pleased about. Of course we’re not complacent. Any further expansion will be tightly controlled. We are absolutely taking it one step at a time. But we are looking to open two more outlets in the North West, then others in Birmingham and Nottingham.”

And why have burritos yet to fly in the UK?

“Most people have got to get used to the idea of them,” says Morgan. “This is a whole meal in a tortilla wrap of meat and rice and with a whole range of extras such as beans, salsa cream, cheese, salad and so on. Funnily enough people in Liverpool have taken to it quicker than they did in Manchester. Then again Liverpool had more Mexican restaurants so people understood the product better.”

He’s right about that: Manchester’s previous burrito experience was bitter and consisted of the grim El Machos, followed on the same site, on Portland Street, by the equally poor Torore.

“Manchester is catching up though. Piccadilly has really picked up since we opened in 2005,” Davies continues. “That was a massive learning curve for us, in an awkward site. But now we’re convinced we appeal to a broad cross section of people and we’ve got the formula more or less right.”

There have been changes to the menu as well. The quesadillas have been taken off the menu for instance.

“We regret ditching the quesadilla but it slowed everything down,” says Davies. “We got complaints over the length of time a quesadilla took to prepare. We’re a ‘fast casual’ place, somewhere between a KFC and Nandos, we’ve had to concentrate on finding and understanding the niche we occupy.”

I took the family to Barburrito on Deansgate to test Davies’ theories.

The decor certainly lived up to another of Davies’ claims that, “We’re not a Mexican themed place but we’re Mexican inspired. I’m not going to make any pretence with fake wagon wheels and cacti.”

Instead the new Barburrito is decked out in eye-popping colours dominated by the brand mascot, ‘Derek the Donkey’. The graphics throughout are entertaining filled with burrito facts.

We had the whole menu more or less: burritos, nachos, tacos, burrito bowls. The three lads cleared their plates with a concentrated energy that made me wonder if I’d bothered to feed them in the last two days. They loved the North American comfort food.

The burritos (£4.25-£4.9), followed by the tacos (same price), were voted best. There are some nice touches throughout with, for example, the use of lime and coriander rice in the burritos. The shredded beef meat filling turned out favourite, others include char-grilled chicken, slow cooked pork, char-grilled steak and flash-fried veg. I preferred the heat of the chipotle sauce amongst the salsas. The guacamole is excellent.

We had unlimited sodas (cokes, Fantas and so on) after the first purchase (£1.50). Davies had recommended a Pacifica beer (£3) which was a headstrong but refreshing number.

The Deansgate branch opens on the weekends to three in the morning as well, so you can fill up on a burrito after a session at the Circle Club round the corner.

“There are burrito chains establishing themselves in London. If they come north I’m not worried,” Davies had told me, “we’ve better. The aim is to become the ‘coolest burrito brand’ on the planet.”

Confident fella, our Morgan. Let’s hope his Manchester based mini-chain lives up to the aspiration. I didn't tell him about my oil-capping idea, but I've put a call into BP and I'm awiting for a response. You never know.

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16 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Christopher BryanJune 4th 2010.

This article clarifies Bar Burrito for me as although I've known about it since 2005, I've never been in as I thought it was a national brand that had been brought up here in the ethos of Nandos etc.

The only burritos I've ever had are the ones from the newly opened stall in the Arndale food court which are brilliant. I shall have to pop in Bar Burrito to compare them.

IBJune 4th 2010.

I've been eating at bar Burrito since it opened up in Piccadilly.I do like the food and it is a refreshing change to other options out there. However the prices are not the cheapest any more to be honest as they did away with the option of small or regular burritos and now only offer the large size as standard. Portions are getting smaller as well from my visit to the Liverpool branch last week. Keep up the good work guys as always good to see a success story. Hope my comments help.

AnonymousJune 4th 2010.

Happy days. At last a home grown brand to rival the mass market influx of boring sandwich, Coffee and roll bars. Really great tasting fresh food. Hope to see many more Barburitos across the Land. Best of luck to you guys !!

Scott NeilJune 4th 2010.

all the best to em, fair play. never visited the L1 site, but popped my Deansgate cherry today and it seems like they've hit their stride compared to the other two local sites, in terms of what they want to do w their outlets.
i gather Yank chain Chipotle which i believe was an original influence for Barburrito has finally landed down south, so i imagine perhaps Mr Davies greeted that w a wry smile?!

quite agree re their getting rid of quesadillas, shame for tummies, but w what they want to do, suppose it had to be done. agree re the guac, it's good, and glad that Pacifico is back on alongside Corona and that soft tacos are now available. they will clean up in Leeds i'm sure and certainly Brum (that pretty poor burrito truck that you used to/still do?, get on Broad Street, oh my stars!!).

RobtherichJune 5th 2010.

Panchos in the Arndale food market is miles better in my opinion. Bigger portions, cheaper price, far more flavour. Plus the guy who owns/runs it sells all kinds of weird and wonderful chillies/sauces/jars of cactus.

MexicanaJune 6th 2010.

Rob,they are each a different proposition altogether

AnonymousJune 6th 2010.

They both serve the same food though so therefore must be worthy of comparison.

Scott NeilJune 9th 2010.

ate in the Leeds one other day. very similar to Deansgate store. looks like they're finding their mark.

LeeJune 19th 2010.

Still waiting for decent mexican food to hit Manchester. This is mexican food for the masses just like Chiquitos. Anyone who has had "real" mexican food will know how dumbed down this stuff is. They've also cut the menu right down sinc they first opended and the portions have definitely gotten smaller. :(

Scott NeilJune 25th 2010.

tbf i don't think they're making any grand claims for themselves, are they? (that said, they walk all over Chiquitos, which i know is not hard.) their niche seems to be working. demographics - and the subsequent lack of Mexican produce shops, etc - means north England is never going to come anywhere near Chicago's West Side or East LA (let alone the motherland itself) for Mexican.

NortherngeezerJune 25th 2010.

East LA...................Lower Accrington??

Scott NeilJune 25th 2010.

i was going to say East Lancashire at least guarantees you a better drop of ale than East Los Angeles, but w all the pub closures these days, who knows if even that is true...

AnonymousMarch 31st 2011.

Agree with one post above - used to prefer the option of a small size buritto instead of now the standard large size. Noticed portion sizes have decreased too, even though all sizes are large - stopped eating there as it stopped becoming good value for money when my buritto was pretty big and empty. Also noticed an inconsistency with taste between stores - e.g. Piccadilly tastes better than Deansgate & Liverpool...

AnonymousAugust 31st 2011.

panchos in the arndale market is much nicer

WildgoonSeptember 7th 2011.

Barburrito is the best in Manchester. Full stop! Pancho's has a loooong way to go until it's in the same league.

However, Barburrito needs to watch out - it's essentially a copy of a chain in the US called Chipotle which is much better. They have started one in London and I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a Burrito war in the MCR marketplace soon.

AnonymousJuly 9th 2014.

I do not like the Barburrito menu. Did you ever tasted real Mexican food? If you ever had it you will agree with me that the Barburrito menu and the items are no match for it. Second, the menu prices as listed on www.fastfoodprice.co.uk/…/… are pretty high!

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