Rubio’s Expands to the East Coast with Eight New Locations

Foodable's Paul Barron chats oceanside with Ralph Rubio on a Fast Casual Nation episode | Foodable WebTV Network

Foodable's Paul Barron chats oceanside with Ralph Rubio on a Fast Casual Nation episode | Foodable WebTV Network

Rubio’s Restaurants has officially acquired eight locations in south Florida. The stores were previously Lime Fresh Mexican Grills, but soon they will be converted to the first ever east coast Rubio’s Coastal Grills.

Before this expansion, Rubio’s had 200 stores on the west coast in California, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Nevada.

Last fall, Rubio’s announced that the brand planned to venture to the east coast. Since then, Rubio’s and Florida Lime Fresh Mexican Grill’s parent company, Ruby Tuesday have been finalizing the deal.

The coastal grill’s newly acquired stores are projected to open in the fall of 2016 and are located in the Miami, Tampa Bay, Ft. Lauderdale, St. Petersburg and Winter Park areas of south Florida.

“The acquisition of these eight Florida locations is a huge milestone for our company as it marks our first expansion to the East Coast,” said Ralph Rubio, founder of Rubio’s Coastal Grill. “We’re incredibly excited to start transitioning the restaurants to Rubio’s Coastal Grill and look forward to opening the first location this fall.”

How Will Rubio’s Stand out in this Market?

South Florida already has an array of Mexican fast casuals in the area, including Tijuana Flats, Chipotle and Lime Fresh. So, how is the brand going to outshine the others that are already established in the area?

Well, the brand’s claim to fame are the fish tacos. “Our fish taco made Rubio’s famous,” said Rubio to Foodabletv.com a few years ago. “It was a territory that was not conquered, very few hang their hat on Fish Tacos.”

Rubio saw the potential of both the fish taco and the fast casual segment. When the restaurant opened in 1983, it was originally a quick-serve restaurant. But, the brand soon morphed to a fast casual, before the term “fast casual” even existed.

In 2014, the brand went through a re-branding and changed its name from Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill to Rubio’s Coastal Grill. This is because of the fish-themed menu and it also further differentiates the brand from the other Mexican grills.

“I don’t respect the ‘me too’ brands,” said Rubio. “Just because Chipotle is popular, doesn't mean you should copy them.”

Sustainable Seafood

Foodable WebTV Network

Foodable WebTV Network

Another thing that Rubio feels strongly about is the sustain movement. The brand sees it as their social responsibility to serve sustainable seafood options.

The chain has expanded its menu with Grilled Gourmet Shrimp Tacos, Wild Alaska Coho Salmon California Bowls and Chipotle Orange Salad with Wild Pacific Mahi Mahi. “We are very thorough with our menu,” said Rubio.

Today, the restaurant has sold over 200 million Original Fish Tacos.

We will just have to see if the brand will take off on the east coast like it has on the west coast.