Guzman y Gomez founder expects Singapore footprint to nearly triple in three to five years

Steven Marks elaborates on the chain’s growth plans and why he’s saying no to another brand.

The founder of Mexican chain Guzman y Gomez (GYG) believes the brand can nearly triple its Singapore footprint in three to five years, part of a larger plan to be one of the top fast food chains in the world.

“We have 15 restaurants in Singapore. I think in the next three to five years, there will be 40,” Steven Marks told QSR Media in an exclusive interview.

GYG also has four stores in Japan, which is currently in a state of emergency due to COVID-19.

The Australia-headquartered chain has continually expanded, having reached over 140 stores domestically, employing a strategy that focuses on building stores with drive-thru lanes. Currently, close to 50 feature drive-thrus with double lanes. Almost all of the 35 restaurants they are opening over the next 12 months will also be drive-thru stores - part of a larger plan for the brand to about 600 restaurants.

“Every year that GYG continues to grow, that number keeps going up,” Marks said “We're comping 30 to 40% year over year, which is unheard of.”

The numbers reveal that average turnover for these stores are now closer to A$90,000 (almost US$ 70,000) in a week, with some even reaching A$150,000 (approximately US$116,000).

Taking on Taco Bell, Chipotle in the U.S.
GYG is also betting on their drive-thru strategy to disrupt the Mexican fast food scene in the U.S. and compete with Taco Bell and Chipotle — billed in past years as a homecoming of sorts for Marks, a New York native and once a trader for Wall Street hedge fund manager Steven Cohen.

Marks said their target is to have up to 150 restaurants within a two to three-year time frame, differentiating by offering across the three traditional dayparts.

“Nobody's doing breakfast, lunch, dinner in drive-thrus,” Marks said, adding that the company’s in the process of putting together a team to give them “great credibility” to grow in the American market.

IPO still on the menu, saying no to a another brand
Marks also confirmed that an IPO is still part of the plan, but said they do not have a set timeline at this stage. 

The listing was put on hold after Hamish Douglass’ Magellan Financial Group, which has invested in Yum Brands (owner of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell in the United States), Starbucks and McDonald's, outlaid $86.8 million for a 10% stake in December, valuing the business at almost $870 million. (Magellan subsequently revealed in January it has settled the acquisition, paying $95.4 million for an 11% interest.)

“[Douglass] and his team have been an incredible addition. And besides the credibility that Magellan brings, his knowledge [and] network in the US has been phenomenal. So we're super excited about that,” he said.

Marks also said no to the idea of growing another brand.

“People ask us all the time, ‘You have this infrastructure built, you want to run another brand?’ Nope, just GYG,” he explained.

“We all believe that GYG will be the best restaurant company in the world one day, and the only way you can be the best is to be solely focused on one thing and make sure you do better than anyone else.”

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