Taco-and-burrito chain Quesada has landed in St. John’s. It’s part of the Canadian franchise’s push into new territories, which may see a total of almost one hundred Quesada locations up-and-running by the end of the year.
The local Quesada’s location, situated on Kelsey Drive, off Kenmount Road, is being operated by Mark Norman, his wife Amy, and brother Stephen. Mark has been in the local mortgage and real estate business (normanlane.ca) for the last 13 years, and recently decided to expand into the world of franchising.
The trio says that they landed on Quesada as their franchise-of-choice primarily for its food. Amy, an avid fitness person, was adamant that they pick something that was in line with their core values, meaning a healthy product was essential.
“Myself and Amy are frequent travelers, and every time we go somewhere, we land, pick up our rental car, and go get burritos, so we spent a lot of time wondering why this type of cuisine wasn’t available back in St. John’s,” says Norman. “It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like a taco!”
Soon after, Norman looped his brother into the venture.
“Back in 2012, my and Stephen’s mother died of cancer and, at that time, mom told me keep an eye on my brother, as there had been a 16 year age difference between us so we had never been very close,” says Norman.
“When we started to consider this as a real opportunity, we turned to Stephen who had been a cook at the Celtic Hearth for the last three years and worked at Gypsy Tea Room prior to that. When we showed him that although we were going to be a quick-service restaurant (like Subway), we were making REAL food (not processed) on site from fresh ingredients daily, he was in.”
As a national chain, Quesada’s has worked to make things as authentically Mexican as can be. “All of our sauces and marinades are made right in the store with real ancho peppers, tomatillos, jalapeños, chipotle peppers, cilantro … the Jarritos Mexican soda is an homage to that as it is authentically Mexican.”
So far, the St. John’s store has already set a record as the biggest opening week in the company’s history, with 62 other locations across the country. Norman credits the groundwork done on social media since April.
“We quietly opened on Regatta Day morning without informing the public, as we didn’t want to overwhelm our brand new staff who were still training on the line,” says Norman. “Throughout the day, the lines got longer and longer and organically people just started showing up.
The big demand put the squeeze on their supplies, which meant that they sold out of all of our special order products in the first four days. The team has worked through the issue, and they say supply issues will be worked out by the time this issue hits the stands.
The official grand opening of Quesada’s (1 Kiwanis Street) is September 23-24.