Feel Good Food


Zambrero has to be the only fast food chain in the world that was founded by a doctor who is also a philanthropist. It was by pure chance that the CEO of Zambrero, Stuart Cook, just so happened to meet the brainchild of the business. “I actually was on a bus on the way to the Taj Mahal in India and sitting next to me was Dr Sam Prince,” recalls Mr Cook. Today, Zambrero captures the authentic flavours of Mexico and gives them a funky twist, feeding the body and soul.

Dancing Tastebuds

When Dr Prince was a university student, he worked part time in a Mexican restaurant. He noticed that while America had plenty of Mexican fast food joints there was a gap in the Australian market. As a result, Zambrero is geared toward Australian tastes, with a colourful menu full of flavour. There is no grease, no heavily processed meat patties, no wilted scraps of lettuce… everything is nutritious, delicious and made with love.

Zambrero is filling but never bloating, fresh but never fattening. “We are very much an Australian – Mexican fusion of food,” explains Mr Cook. We’re taking some of the styles of Mexican food but putting a real Australian fresh aspect on it by including a lot more salads, fresh salsas and our own range of sauces which allow you to choose whether you want it spicy or not.”

There is more to Mexican cuisine than scorching hot food. “I’d go even a little bit further to say that the cliché Mexican food is not only hot and spicy but meaty, cheesy and oily.” Conversely, Zambrero is a sensory explosion celebrating everything authentically delicious about Mexican cuisine. Think tomato salsa, creamy guacamole, sizzling lime rice… each bite is a mouthful of spicy, smoky, zesty, crunchy and tender all at once. Ordering is easy – customers can have their food exactly the way they like it. Simply choose a style, a filling, some delicious salsas and a sauce. “Once you come in we have a very open approach to the way that we construct our food,” says Mr Cook. “It’s in front of your eyes so we don’t hide anything by making food behind closed counters. We are making it in front of you and so your eyes will tell you that the food is fresh, the food is healthy and you see what you get.” Naturally, the best part about being CEO, says Mr Cook, is having access to the delicious food, a lamb burrito with garlic and herb sauce being his personal favourite.

Zambrero boasts its own gourmet range of proprietary sauces created by Dr Prince. Fire breathing heat lovers worship the red chilli sauce, an exotic blend of serrano chillies, crushed peaches and ginger. The jalapeno and mango infused verde sauce with zesty lime is another tantalising hot option. For a uniquely Mexican take on BBQ sauce, ask for the smokey BBQ sauce with tamarind, or enjoy the garlic and herb or chipotle sauce for a creamy taste sensation. All of these high quality sauces are Australian made, with many of the recipes drawn from the realm of haute cuisine.

Ethical Eating

The company aims to use Australian produce wherever possible, only importing products or produce that are in short supply or unavailable locally. All of the chips, tortillas and tacos are Australian made. “Every one of our tacos is hand pressed,” says Mr Cook. Zambrero does import refried beans and jalapenos, in short supply here in Australia. Depending on the season, Zambrero may bring in avocadoes from New Zealand but that’s as far away as the company will go when sourcing fresh produce.

Zambrero slow cooks all its meats with specially selected herbs and spices for maximum flavour and tenderness. “Our chicken is cooked for two hours at 95 degrees and our lamb and beef cooks for 16 hours,” explains Mr Cook. Zambrero uses only free range chicken, and works with some organic fresh produce suppliers as well, although good quality organic can sometimes be difficult to find. If customers choose not to eat meat altogether or just fancy a change, Zambrero provides a fabulous vegetarian option on the menu of pinto beans and guacamole.

And Zambrero’s humanitarian focus extends beyond its ingredient choices. “Through our plate4plate program, we donate funds from each plate of food that we have sold
in Australia towards a plate of food for someone in need overseas.” That sense of social responsibility has been at the heart of Zambrero from the beginning.

Think Big

It has been an interesting journey so far, and Zambrero has a bold vision it’s charging towards. “The future direction of the business for Zambrero itself will be to continue growing. Our goals are 100 stores in the next three years and we’re on track to achieve that.” Mr Cook is confident that Zambrero has what it takes to become even more successful in Australia and to reach new heights worldwide. “We’ve got an amazing team; there are some great franchisees that are coming through the system… we’re looking to expand our brand globally.”

Becoming a Zambrero franchisee requires passion, dedication and effort but the rewards are great. Compared to many competitors, becoming a Zambrero franchisee has a low point of entry, between $250,000 and $300,000. The company aims to keep its systems as comprehensive and streamlined as possible so that franchise partners, together with team members, can focus on creating the best customer experience possible.

Breaking new ground is not without its obstacles, of course. “I think the greatest challenge for Zambrero will always be finding the right people,” reflects Mr Cook. “We want to make sure that our franchisees all share the same values, that we don’t say yes to everyone and we need to make sure that we are finding the right people.” Across the group, Zambrero has approximately 300 employees and that figure is always growing. Operating in the QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) sector, the right people make all the difference. From instore staff providing service with a smile to senior executives making decisions that steer the company wisely, Zambrero is looking for the best and values its people.

At the store level, creating a fun atmosphere where customers feel welcome is in the hands of vivacious, bubbly staff. Finding those “really strong, passionate, young individuals” and having them contribute their energy to the company is always an exciting challenge, and being innovative and creative while maintaining a disciplined approach is a key focus for head office. The executive team have had extensive experience working at other prominent fast food companies, and they bring this experience to the table at Zambrero.

In terms of the industry itself, it is continually be reshaped by health conscious consumers and technology alike. Consumers are demanding quality foods that are easy on the waistline but still convenient. Zambrero customers like knowing that that burrito they picked up for lunch is doing them good nutrition wise but still tastes fantastic. And while they’re eating, they can get busy on Facebook or Twitter and interact with other Zambrero fans. Today’s fast food chains, besides increasing trading hours for greater convenience, are increasingly using social media to connect with customers and get all important feedback. The days of writing a letter and sending it via snail mail are over; that reliance on social media enables greater communication with customers. Mr Cook comments that getting live responses from customers in restaurants all around Australia is incredibly valuable to the Zambrero team.

Along with that customer feedback, a great deal of detail and thought goes into every decision made at Zambrero. “Sam is a very analytical man and a visionary at the same time –and that’s a very powerful combination,” says Mr Cook. “He is looking at the future and creating plans in meticulous detail. When arguments are put to Dr Prince, he will listen to reason, but always thinks through many different factors before making any decisions. For example, our menu isn’t as expansive as some other competitors but the belief is you’re only as strong as your weakest item,” explains Mr Cook. If a customer orders a meal and it’s the worst combination on the menu, they will never return. “You will rate us based on that; you’re only as strong as your weakest link so we’re highly confident in all of our menu items.”

While up to 100 new product development ideas are under consideration at any given time, only the tastiest, healthiest options make it on to the Zambrero menu. As of June this year, Zambrero launched the ‘chik-ito’, focusing on the female market and a younger age group looking for a quick snack. Watch, too, for some luscious dessert items which will be available by Christmas this year.

Zambrero dreams of being a household name whilst continuing to give back to the broader community. At the intersection of “doing well” and “doing good”, Zambrero’s success has been driven by myriad factors – bold and tasty flavours, fresh and healthy ingredients, and a humanitarian heart.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 19, 2018, 9:24 AM AEDT