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Lime Fresh Interview with CEO John Kunkel RE: Aggressive Expansion

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Lime Fresh Mexican Grill is a homegrown success story built on burritos, beer, and an "upscale interior," that has delivered double-digit rising profits every year since opening their South Beach flagship five years ago.

Recently they hired a former Starbucks executive as their new VP of Development, and their current media tack focuses on the companies aggressive expansion efforts.

Short Order rang up Lime Fresh Mexican Grill CEO John Kunkel to find out what that means for Lime's future.

Here are some questions and answers.

Short Order: What's going on?

Kunkel: Just a Monday morning trying to load glass from a crane into an office on Biscayne.

Short Order: In terms of Lime's "aggressive expansion."

Kunkel: We're really focusing on filling out Dade, Broward, and West Palm Beach, then Tampa, and then on from there.

We've taken 5 years to prepare for expansion operationally. We're focused on quality. We've turned down about 220 franchisees, and picked 4. We're an all franchise operation except for our flagship on South Beach.

You have to work with us and audion for a franchise. We've slowly selected operators.

We have an unusual franchise model that's more concerned with quality of units than quantity.
It's a challenge, but we continue to focus on operations and that's what we do day to day. We have a real handholding relationship with our franchisees right down to scheduling.

Short Order: How many stores do you plan to open next year?

Kunkel: We're going to try for 5. Right now we're looking at a store in Dadeland, we're about 2 weeks from closing on a space in Downtown Miami, we're close to a deal at the Falls, and we locked up a site in Plantation.

For sure we'll open at least 3 or 4. It all depends on locations and operators.

So many families are diverting from full service brands like Applebee's and going toward fast casual concepts. Lime has been so successful because you don't feel like you're in a fast food restaurant. Especially for our dinner market. Between beer, and wine, and our upscale interior, we have done phenomewnal business. We're up every year in double digits.

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