In just a year, 100 Montaditos has made its mark on Miami, with restaurants from the decade-old Spanish chain opening in the city’s hippest spots, including Midtown, Brickell, even the restaurant space at the highly anticipated H&M on Lincoln Road.
Its midtown location, in particular, has outsold more than any of the chain’s existing 200 restaurants in Europe and Latin America.
But now, as owner Juan Gervas launches ambitious plans to stake out territory beyond South Florida and open about 25 more restaurants along the east coast, the question is: Can that success be duplicated?
For Gervas, the answer is clearly yes. Within five to seven years, he hopes to have 500 restaurants nationwide.
“The way I see it is Italians have made a very good product in terms of brands and concepts,” he said. So why not do the same for Spain? “One of the biggest industries in Spain is food. It’s a player in the world. We have top chefs with restaurants in Singapore, Shanghai and the U.S.”
But for the success to translate out of South Florida’s heavily Hispanic market, Gervas will have to proceed carefully, said Dennis Lombardi, a restaurant consultant and executive vice president at Columbus, Ohio-based WD Partners.
“On the consumer side, it has a lot going for it. Obviously the price point and variety and the fun of going in and trying all these different things,” he said.
From an operation standpoint, however, things could get tricky.
“I think the product will travel. It’s a sandwich,” Lombardi said. “And the concept makes it fun and interesting. But that doesn’t mean if it’s sitting in Columbus, Ohio it’s going to get the store volume it needs.”
The concept behind 100 Montaditos, owned by the Restalia Group, is simple: a well-appointed Spanish tavern serving 100 different tapas-style sandwiches made from high quality ingredients, including Jamon Iberico, a free-range ham made from Spanish pigs who live in oak groves, grazing on grass and acorns. 100 Montaditos only uses its own bread, again from Spain, shipped frozen to the United States, where it is baked in ovens specially designed for the restaurant.
Sandwich prices range from $1.50 to $2.50, except on Wednesdays when every sandwich is just $1. The restaurant also serves salads and appetizers on cutting boards loaded with Iberico ham, crushed tomatoes and olives or different cheeses. There’s even a dessert montadito made with chocolate bread. 100 Montaditos also serves Gervas’ family beer and another house special, Spanish red wine mixed with lemonade.
One recent morning at the chain’s Brickell location, the only one open for breakfast, Milagros Alfaro stopped for coffee, yogurt and 100 Montaditos’ signature bread.
“The artisan bread is more special, like the bread in my country,” said Alfaro, a nanny who is from Peru and usually meets other nannies from the neighborhood three or four times a week at the restaurant after morning walks. “And it’s not expensive.”
While the menu is priced like a fast food restaurant, Gervas, who ran his own law firm before founding MGH group, an investment and management firm, says he’s carving out a new niche.
“I know they put us in fast food, but in that case, this is the only fast food where you have your drink in a glass and your food on a plate,” he said. “We think our restaurants present a specific offering that hasn’t existed before.”