This company thinks it has a fresh take on fast food. Fresh Enterprises operates and franchises more than 250 Baja Fresh Mexican Grill fast-casual restaurants mostly in California and about 20 other states. The chain's menu features made-to-order burritos and tacos, as well as quesadillas, nachos, and salads. Founded in 1990, Baja Fresh is known for using fresh ingredients without fillers and eschewing freezers and microwaves. In addition to its flagship chain, Fresh Enterprises oversees the La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill chain and Canyons Burger Company. An investment group led by David Kim owns the company.
Despite being a pioneer in the fresh-Mex dining segment, the Baja Fresh chain has fallen behind leaders such as Chipotle Mexican Grill and Qdoba (owned by Jack in the Box). Fresh Enterprises is focused on expanding its flagship chain primarily through franchising. A new concept called Baja Fresh Express is helping the chain expand into high-traffic locations such as airports, shopping areas, and college campuses. The company also combined Baja Fresh and Canyons Burger Company to create Baja Fresh Canyons Burger in 2010. The first location of the dual restaurant franchise opened in Bozeman, Montana.
The company's renewed growth efforts have been spurred by new ownership. Kim and his partners purchased the company for $31 million in 2006 from Wendy's International. The following year Fresh Enterprises expended into a multi-concept operator, acquiring the La Salsa chain from CKE Restaurants. In addition to his Mexican dining chains, Kim is a franchisee of Cinnabon and the owner of Sweet Factory, a chain of mall-based candy stores.
Wendy's had acquired the Baja Fresh chain for $275 million in 2002 hoping to diversify its revenue and cash in on the growing popularity of quick-casual dining. However, the burger chain failed to invest enough in expansion and Baja Fresh fell behind the competition. To focus on its core hamburger chain, Wendy's sold both Baja Fresh and its holdings in Canadian doughnut chain Tim Hortons. – less