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Sombrero looks to franchise restaurants

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As the chief operating officer of San Diego-style Sombrero Mexican Food, Javier Correa Jr. has been managing all aspects of his family's business since his early 20s. After growing the Sombrero brand to 19 locations throughout San Diego, Corona and Yuma, Javier and his father, Javier Sr., recently launched the company's franchise program, with the first location opening this month in O'Fallon, Mo.

Q: You have 19 locations owned by the company or family members, but this year decided to start franchising. What led you to consider franchising the concept?

A: Since its flagship location opened over two decades ago, our family has been fine-tuning our operations, menu and management to perfect every aspect of its structure. In doing so, Sombrero has prepared itself to share this proven concept of a successful business structure with qualified partners. The success of 19 locations throughout San Diego County, Corona , El Centro and Yuma all opened by our family, is promising evidence that fast-casual Mexican Food is in high demand in specific areas. With that, the Sombrero Franchise Program was created.

Q: You recently implemented into your branding, "San Diego Style Sombrero Mexican Food." Why the distinction of "San Diego" in describing your cuisine?

A: Anyone from or living in San Diego can tell you, there is a clear distinction between the Mexican food you find in San Diego compared to that in restaurants throughout the country. The food is more authentic, fresh, homemade and quality sourced. Items like carne asada, fresh guacamole, rolled tacos, rice and beans are locally produced -- it's what San Diego is known for. With plans to open Sombrero restaurants all over the country, it's important for us to not be generalized to the Mexican food they may be used to. We're sure that as soon as they try our California burrito or Carne Asada Fries, they'll know what we're talking about here in San Diego.

Q: Your family is intensively involved with the restaurant. Some of your aunts own locations, and your brothers and sisters are managers. How do you all manage being a family while running a sizable operation?

A: We are a close-knit family, but there is one thing has remained true for as long as I can remember: Treat the business like a business. We have spent years implementing specific standards, policies and procedures. Although it is a "family run company," this isn't your typical "mom and pop shop." We trust one another to do what is best for the brand, as a family, but to always work professionally when dealing with the Sombrero name.

Q: Do you have anything new or different planned for 2012?

A: 2011 was a great year for us to set the groundwork for some successful promotions, our Franchise Program and community outreach. Already receiving positive feedback and interest from potential franchisees, we will be focusing a lot of our efforts on expanding the Sombrero brand throughout the country with our franchising opportunities. In addition, we will be placing a heavier focus on integrating ourselves with all the surrounding communities and organizations with fundraising programs and special promotions.

Recently, the San Diego Humane Society and SCPA announced the appointment of Gary L. Weitzman as its new president and CEO, after a search that began in September.

Weitzman most recently served as the president and CEO of The Washington Animal Rescue League.

The first-ever Taste of San Carlos event is taking place from 5:30 to 9 p.m., Friday, March 9 at the Mission Trails Golf Course. For a $30 ticket, the evening includes food, drink, music and a silent auction.

Participating restaurants include: Nicolosi's Italian Restaurant; Mission Trails Golf Course; Sei Sushi; I Love Tacos Catering; Dinner a-go-go and Windmill Farms; Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits; The CupCake Store; and Longhorn Café and Saloon.

Visit tasteofsancarlos.com for more information.


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