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Latin American Fast-Food Chains Profit From Florida's Hispanic Population, Plan on Increasing Number of US Restaurants

First Posted: Sep 01, 2014 01:40 PM EDT
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Photo : El Corral USA/Facebook

South American restaurant chains are moving to South Florida in the hopes of getting a piece of the United States' growing food service industry.

According to The Associated Press, fast-food and fast-casual restaurants make a combined total of $231 billion annually in the U.S. South American restaurants are aiming to profit off this by introducing fresh flavors to the mix.

"Americans are always interested in something new and different," said Warren Solochek, a restaurant analyst at market research firm NPD Group. "If you have a new sort of restaurant that is coming into an area, people are always going to be interested in trying it out to see if it fits their needs."

An example is Colombia-based El Corral Burgers. The chain's first U.S. restaurant opened in a town near Miami last year. In its first weeks open, the restaurant saw an average of 620 "Colombians and others," according to AP.

"We had lines longer than Disneyland -- some came from Tampa and Orlando," said Juan Mario Patino, a vice president of El Corral Burgers' U.S. franchisee 4JS Management.

Meanwhile, Juan Valdez, a Colombian coffee company, is to open 60 franchised cafés throughout southern Florida within the next five years.

Three years ago, Giraffas, the second largest Brazil-based fast-food chain, opened its first U.S. spot in North Miami. Since then, 10 more Giraffas have opened in the U.S., and the chain plans to have 100-150 U.S. stores by 2020.

"To make a difference in the U.S. you have to have hundreds of locations," said Joao Barbosa, CEO of Giraffas USA.

The Latin American restaurateurs are attracted to Miami-Dade County because two-thirds of its residents are Hispanic, AP reports. Still, the companies hope to expand their appeal.

"We don't want to be the brand of Hispanics," said Alejandra Londono, the vice president of international business at Juan Valdez.

In addition, having restaurants in the U.S. draws attention from potential locations around the world.

"With our 11 locations here we make much more noise in the world than with the 400 we have in Brazil," Barbosa said. "If you reach success in the U.S. the chances to go global are easier.

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Follow Scharon Harding on Twitter: @ScharHar.

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