Giraffas, the Brazilian restaurant chain, has opened 10 outlets in Florida since 2011 and now is planning to expand to “100 or 200 restaurants” in the United States, said João Barbosa, the CFO and a partner in the parent company, Giraffas International, and the company’s top executive in the United States.
Giraffas USA, whose corporate symbol is a pair of stylized giraffes shaped like a knife and fork, has been operating here since 2009, when it opened its U.S. headquarters in Miami. Since then, it has invested about $20 million and introduced its Brazilian grill flavors to Florida. The privately held company has over 400 restaurants in Brazil and ranks as one of the South American country’s largest fast-food chains.
It was founded in Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, in 1981, when the names of animals were popular there for night clubs and other types of businesses.
Giraffas USA operates eight outlets in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and two in Orlando.
“We opened our first restaurant in North Miami in 2011 and have been growing since then,” said Barbosa, who trained as a metallurgical engineer in Brazil and worked in a variety of sectors before becoming an investor and partner in Giraffas.
“We are a fast-casual version of a Brazilian steak house, with grilled steaks cooked to order, chicken, salmon and shrimp, plus burgers, fresh salads and Brazilian beer and wines.” Barbosa became acquainted with Giraffas as the co-owner of a large logistics concern that supplied fast food companies in Brazil.
Prices range from $5 for a lunch special to $14.99 for the 9-ounce picanha, Giraffas’ top sirloin cut served with Brazilian sauces, rice, beans and a third side. Giraffas’ 8-ounce contra filet (New York strip) is priced at $12.99 and an 8-ounce chicken breast costs $9.99. All the main dishes come with three side orders.
The restaurants serve popular Brazilian specialties like warm cheese bread (pão de queijo) and toasted manioc flour (farofa), as well as Brazilian wines and beers and desserts.
“When people think of a Brazilian steak house, they think of high prices,” said Barbosa, who was born in London and raised in Brasilia. “We offer tasty Brazilian steaks at affordable prices.”
Giraffas describes itself as a fast-casual restaurant, positioned between standard fast-food and casual restaurants.
Customers place orders and pay at the main counter, then choose a table. Servers bring completed orders to each table. An advantage of this system, Barbosa said, is that customers enjoy a restaurant experience at a reasonable price, and save money because they don’t have to tip.
Giraffas has six employees at its U.S. headquarters in Miami, and about 200 at its 10 Florida restaurants. In Brazil, 12,000 people work at its company-owned outlets and franchises.
At its Florida stores, Giraffas had sales of about $10 million last year, Barbosa said. Sales have been increasing steadily since 2011 as the company added new stores, and same-store sales are expected to grow by 5 to 10 percent this year.
In Brazil, Giraffas logged sales equivalent to about $350 million last year. Of its 400 plus restaurants there, about 350 are franchises.
For the next phase of its expansion plans for the rest of the United States, Giraffas is laying the groundwork for establishing a long-term, profitable franchise model to attract new investors.
Giraffas started out with company-owned stores in Florida and is moving them to franchises, and future expansion will depend on franchising, Barbosa said.
The company is not planning to open any new restaurants this year. Rather it is carefully analyzing current operations. “We want to improve food costs so that [return on investment] will be more attractive to potential investors,” Barbosa said. “Also, we are looking at smaller kitchen footprints for cities like New York, where real estate costs are very high.
“We’re creating an attractive infrastructure for franchising Giraffas on a large scale, and the next step will be to look for new franchise operators in 2016, perhaps in the Northeast.
“International expansion is necessary for Giraffas’ continued growth,” Barbosa said.
“The U.S. is the market where everything happens, and the idea is to grow with franchises.”
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Business: Brazilian-style restaurant offering grilled steaks, chicken, salmon and shrimp; grilled burgers; salads; Brazilian specialties like warm cheese bread (pão de queijo) and toasted manioc flour (farofa), as well as Brazilian beer, wines and desserts. Prices range from $5 for a lunch special to $14.99 for their top sirloin steak with three sides. Giraffas describes itself as a fast/casual version of a steakhouse, positioned between standard fast foods and casual restaurants.
Corporate headquarters: Brasilia, Brazil
U.S. headquarters: Miami, opened in 2009.
Management: João Barbosa, CFO of Giraffas International and one of the company’s partners.
Founded: in Brasilia in 1981.
Operations: Ten locations in Florida: eight in Miami Dade and Broward and two in Orlando. In Brazil, more than 400.
Employees: Six at Miami corporate headquarters, about 200 at its Florida restaurants and 12,000 in Brazil.
Revenues: Sales in Brazil were about $350 million in 2014, while Florida sales reached around $10 million last year.
Ownership: Privately owned by a group of Brazilian partners.