Rubio’s Coastal Grill's CEO Marc Simon Discusses the Brand’s Expansion to the East Coast

Foodable WebTV Network

Foodable WebTV Network

Rubio’s isn’t getting tide down to the west coast. The co-founder Ralph Rubio told Foodable back in September of 2014 that the brand planned to expand across the country in the near future. Well, in 2016 the restaurant is taking no time to coast.

Rubio’s has officially acquired eight locations on the east coast, starting in the south Florida area. These stores are expected to open in the fall of 2016.

Before acquiring locations in Florida, the brand had 200 stores in California, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Nevada and has been rapidly expanding since it was founded in 1983.

Will consumers on the east coast get hooked on this west coast chain, known for its fish tacos? And how will the brand continue its sustainable seafood practices on the other coast?

We got to sit down with Marc Simon, Rubio’s CEO and ask him some questions about the expansion and what’s next for the restaurant chain. 

Foodable: Why did Rubio's choose south Florida as the first area to expand the brand on the east coast?

Simon: Florida has been a priority market for expansion because of the shared passion for quality seafood and culinary innovation. With the purchase of the eight Lime Fresh Mexican Grill locations, we are able to have an immediate presence in Florida, with a fairly similar guest demographic and team members accustomed to a fast casual concept. The eight restaurants also provide a jumpstart for economies of scale in terms of our supply chain and people development.

Foodable: Why do you think Rubio's will be successful also on the east coast?

Foodable WebTV Network

Foodable WebTV Network

Simon: While there are a variety of Latin-inspired restaurants and eateries in the Florida area, the fast-casual grilled seafood landscape remains fairly untapped, which we see as a great opportunity. We’ve also seen an increased interest in grilled seafood from consumers across the nation, which likely coincides with the shift towards more conscious, healthy eating. While we’re still known for our Original Fish Taco®, we’ve expanded the menu significantly since we started, adding more grilled seafood options like grilled sustainable shrimp and Wild Alaska Coho salmon, as well as a wide selection of innovative flavor and texture combinations, which we believe will resonate well with consumers on the east coast. We’re excited to see how the communities respond to our coastal cuisine and look. 

Foodable: What were some of the challenges of expanding a west coast brand to the east coast?

Simon: Since opening more than 30 years ago, Rubio’s has established a great reputation and a passionate fan base throughout the Southwestern United States. One of the challenges we face is entering into a market where many people may not be familiar with our brand or menu.

Foodable: Will the menu be different in this area? If yes, how so?

Simon: At this time, the menu will mostly remain the same. We will be offering frozen margaritas and a selection of Florida-based craft beer at select locations. To meet our standards for high quality ingredients, we also plan to source some produce locally in Florida.

Foodable: Let's talk about sustainable seafood. This has always been an emphasis of the brand. How will the restaurant continue sustainable practices across the country? Will the seafood be sourced elsewhere? – 

Simon: At Rubio’s, we partner with the highest quality fisheries that support environmentally and socially responsible fishing practices, and our current seafood suppliers will remain the same as of now.  

Foodable: How will the west coast stores differ from the east coast ones?

Simon: All east coast locations will be the same as current Rubio’s Coastal Grill locations on the west coast. The design will reflect the company’s passion for the coast and commitment to the ocean – guests who walk into Rubio’s will see wall art that details our food philosophy, responsibly-sourced seafood initiatives and unique cooking techniques. 

Foodable: What has caused the restaurant chain to continue it's fast-paced growth?  

Simon: A number of factors have contributed to the growth of the company over the past 33 years. Our menu of grilled seafood with globally inspired, unique recipes and quality ingredients is on-trend for consumers who are looking for “better for you” fast casual options with that don’t compromise taste. Consumers also want to know what they can do to make an impact on the world and often take this into account when making purchasing decisions. With our eco-friendly packaging to responsibly sourced seafood and annual CoastFest beach cleanup and party, we’ve created a passionate following of fans that identify with our ocean conservation efforts. Above all, we have an amazing team that pays great attention to detail in delivering a great in-restaurant experience for our guests each and every time they visit. 

Foodable: What's next for the brand on both the expansion front and in general?

FOODABLE WEBTV NETWORK

FOODABLE WEBTV NETWORK

Simon: Rubio’s continues to look for ways to evolve and grow, and that includes potentially launching in new markets as well as expanding in existing markets. Rubio’s recently opened new restaurants in Lakewood, CO and Livermore, CA, and has additional new units in the pipeline throughout California and Arizona in the coming year.

Offering quality ingredients and innovative seafood recipes continues to remain a focus, as demonstrated through our ongoing Made With a Mission commitment. By the end of 2017, it’s our goal to remove all artificial flavors and caramel coloring (excluding some drinks and desserts), and we’re exploring the introduction of all natural beef raised without antibiotics, and flour tortillas made with even simpler ingredients.