Indeed, the setting looks more quaint Spanish tavern than plastic American. And while European customers tend to linger over a beer or wine, and eat less food, American consumers eat first and drink second. Gervas explained that kitchens had to be enlarged and ovens reconfigured to accommodate American production. Changing that original formula could affect profits, Lombardi said.
“If they’re not selling a lot of beer and selling a lot more sandwiches, that’s probably changing their margin mix in terms of total restaurant sales,” he said. “When you come into a new country, especially a new hemisphere, you’re going to find that the consumer expects different things from the concept and use it differently, and you need to be able to adapt to that.”
But Gervas said 100 Montaditos is already embracing those different tastes. The restaurant plans to update its menu at least once a year, allowing it to respond to customer demands. And the American menu includes platters, so customers don’t have to go through the entire menu.
Gervas started thinking about bringing 100 Montaditos to the states in 2009 after receiving repeated requests for franchises. His family has been doing business in Miami, including real estate and transportation, for 35 years. And in addition to the U.S. expansion, the chain has two stores in Mexico, with 32 more committed, and two in Colombia, with plans for 20 more.
“We felt very confidant about the concept and the way the restaurant works,” he said.
Just last year, he said the company received 600 applications for franchises. A franchise fee runs $35,000, plus 7 percent royalties and an average investment running between $350,000 to $500,000, depending on location. The company projects franchisees can recover their investment in less than 24 months.
But even while franchise interest is high, Gervas said the company has been very careful about awarding contracts and is not interested in just franchising 100 Montaditos.
“We don’t want to be seen as just a franchisor trying to sell a franchise,” he said.
The company plans to open a U.S. factory this year to produce its bread and is exploring buying more of its products in the United States. It is already in negotiations with a cheese maker in Wisconsin, Gervas said.
“Although we’re a Spanish chain and the idea is from Spain....we’re a Spanish concept supported by the United States in every way: employees, supplies, everything,” he said. “We came here and we feel very humble and grateful we’ve been received this way.”