Johnny Rockets targets Hispanic markets

Johnny Rockets is making a more targeted push into Hispanic markets, company officials said Wednesday.

The Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based operator has signed a franchise agreement with Cruzar Group LLC to open at least three restaurants in El Paso, Texas, as part of an aggressive expansion into West Texas, where there is a large Hispanic population.

Restaurants are also under construction in San Antonio and Laredo, Texas, and Arizona is another target market with a growing Hispanic demographic where the brand sees potential for growth.

“It’s something Johnny Rockets wants to focus on because we recognize how important and powerful the group is,” Bulger said.

Currently, about 18 percent of U.S. consumers are Hispanic, and the demographic group is expected to make up a third of the general population by 2050.

According to market research firm The NPD Group, Hispanics’ per capita visits to quick-service restaurants and other foodservice outlets increased by 4 percent in 2014, compared with a 1.1-percent decline in visits by non-Hispanics. However, Hispanics’ per capita visits to full-service restaurants decreased by 7 percent during that time, compared with a 1-percent increase for non-Hispanics.

Johnny Rockets will focus on both Hispanic families and Millennials, Bulger said.

By 2020, an estimated 25 percent of Millennials will be Hispanic. Of those, two thirds identify themselves as “foodies,” which fits with Johnny Rockets’ renewed emphasis on food, Bulger said.

“What we’re doing, from a quality standpoint and making sure we’re offering the best-quality products, is right in line with what Hispanic families are looking for,” he said. “We weren’t doing as good a job in communicating our quality ingredients, but that’s very important to Hispanics.”

The strategy is still in beginning stages, but will likely include the use of Spanish on menus, Bulger said. The focus will also be applied to restaurant design.

Hispanic customers tend to dine out in larger parties of four or more, compared with two or more for the general population, Bulger said. So Johnny Rockets is looking to create space in restaurants for larger gatherings.

The chain will also look to incorporate regional flavors that will resonate in markets with larger Hispanic populations, Bulger said.