Restaurant News & Reviews

Pincho Factory’s burgers and kebabs win fans in South Florida and beyond

Cousins Nedal Ahmad and Otto Othman of the Pincho Factory, a Miami-based fast-casual food company that has plans to expand. The two founded the company with Nizar Ahmad.
Cousins Nedal Ahmad and Otto Othman of the Pincho Factory, a Miami-based fast-casual food company that has plans to expand. The two founded the company with Nizar Ahmad. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

The company: Pincho Factory, a fast-casual food chain, was founded in Miami in 2010 by three cousins. The name comes from pinchos or kebabs which, along with hamburgers, are the company’s opening culinary lineup.

Today, the three co-founders — Nedal Ahmad, CEO; Otto Othman, CMO; and Nizar Ahmad, director of training — are the small company’s top executives and majority owners. The family-owned firm has three other investors and currently operates three company-owned stores in Miami, two franchises in Pembroke Pines and Orlando and a stand at the AmericanAirlines Arena. It is expanding rapidly, spurred mostly by word of mouth, as well as by recognition from foodie groups, and is planning to open a new franchise outlet in Pinecrest in August.

Products: The menu offers burgers, individual kebabs, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, a variety of fries, tostones (fried plantains) and sweet potato tots. Unusual items (and big sellers) are the burgers or chicken sandwiches made with tostones instead of buns. Other favorites are a choice of pita wrap, rice bowl or salad made with chicken, steak or shrimp and served with a variety of sauces.

Among the refreshments are Pincho Factory’s own brand — 627 Ale — produced by Wynwood Brewing Co. The name refers to the fact that after the cousins opened their first store, CEO Nedal had only $6.27 left in his bank account. Pincho Factory also offers a “Chalkboard Special” that changes monthly.

Getting started: About six years ago, Nedal Ahmad and Othman were grilling at a family barbecue. They decided that Nedal’s tasty burgers (a family favorite) and Othman’s delicious meat and vegetable kebabs, based on his mother’s recipe, could be the starting point for a restaurant enterprise. Both had business experience and, after getting together with cousin Nizar Ahmad, tried out different dishes, developed a menu and opened a location in Westchester. The three invested all their savings — about $77,000 — to open the first store.

In its first year of operation, this restaurant had sales of about $200,000. Now, the same outlet brings in $1.4 million per year.

The difference: High quality domestic beef and chicken, fresh not frozen, and no antibiotics or additives. Sauces made fresh daily.

People come in to eat and hang out, the owners say. Stores are friendly, laid-back neighborhood joints that serve awesome food. “We want you to relax,” Othman said. “We don’t want you to feel that you have to leave after you finish.”

Sales: In 2015, they totaled about $3 million, the company said, and projections for this year are close to triple that figure, due to new restaurant openings and impressive traffic gains at existing stores.

Competitors: “Everyone competes for a share of your stomach,” Othman said. The company vies for customers with a range of fast-casual restaurants, like Shake Shack, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Pollo Tropical, as well as full-service casual like Chili’s. “We compete more with full-service casual than with fast casual,” Nedal said.

Glitch: A recent Pincho Factory opening was a success, and sales were strong, Nedal said. “But we took our eye off the ball and service quality declined. As soon as we noticed, we retrained our employees and service improved. We prefer retraining employees to replacing them.”

The company devotes significant resources to training and evaluating personnel, and one of its three founders, Nizar Ahmad, is director of training.

Analyst: “Pincho Factory exemplifies the winning combination of serving quality ingredients in a casual environment,” said Jesus Vazquez, program director at Miami Dade College’s Miami Culinary Institute, who recently visited Pincho Factory in Coral Gables with friends. “I found the service to be consistently excellent, from the person taking your order to the server who clears your table and offers you a second beer. And the food is delicious, especially the tostones burgers,” Vazquez said. “Pincho Factory offers various menu items that make them unique, highlighted by the tostones burger. Their focus on quality by utilizing no frozen beef, no hormones, sauces made in house daily, etc., is a competitive advantage for the quick service industry.”

What customers say: Two registered nurses, Kristina Artiles and Kellany Cadogan, were interviewed while they were lunching at Pincho Factory in Pembroke Pines. Artiles had come for dinner the night before, and said she “really enjoyed the quality of the food and the fast-casual atmosphere.” Cadogan, who came to the restaurant for the first time on her friend’s recommendation, said her tostones burger and shrimp pincho “were really good. After the first bite, I planned to come back.”

Challenges: “As the economy continues to show signs of improvement, Pincho Factory is well positioned to expand in South Florida and across Florida,” the Miami Culinary Institute’s program director said. “To support their expansion, the cousins will need to ensure that they bring in a strong management team to develop a solid infrastructure in support of the growing number of franchisees. This will entail extensive training and support beyond a restaurant’s grand opening, as well as access to an experienced in-house team of marketers, franchise consultants and public relations professionals to drive traffic and ensure restaurant success.”

Outlook: Pincho Factory’s current plan is to develop three more corporate stores over the next 12 months and 10 more franchises, some with former NFL star and restaurateur Jonathan Vilma. Farther out, “We’re looking for friendly investors with a long-term view and we’ve received a lot of offers,” Othman said. “Our goal is to build a strong base in Florida, and later become a national player. There are no national kebab chains,” he said.

His partner concurred: “We’re not afraid to take risks,” Nedal said. “We’ll put it out there and see if it works.”

The writer can be reached at josephmannjr@gmail.com

Pincho Factory

Business: Miami-based Pincho Factory Inc. is a Miami-based, family-owned fast-casual restaurant chain whose menu is based on a variety of high-quality burgers and “pinchos” — or kebabs. Pincho Factory currently has three company-owned stores in Miami, two franchises (in Pembroke Pines and Orlando) and a stand at AmericanAirlines Arena, and is expanding rapidly in a highly competitive sector.

Headquarters: 5246 SW Eighth St., Coral Gables.

Founded: 2010.

Leadership: Co-founders and cousins Nedal Ahmad, CEO; Otto Othman, CMO; and Nizar Ahmad, director of training.

Employees: 146.

Ownership: Privately held by the founders and a small group of investors.

Website: www.pinchofactory.com

Source: Pincho Factory.

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