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Tijuana Flats' new entrees aim for the light side

Tijuana Flats, the 75-unit Tex-Mex chain based in Maitland, Fla., rolled out an updated menu Monday that includes grouper tacos and a new Fresh “Norrito” Bowl, which contains burrito fillings without the tortilla.

In all, five new entrees were tested at select Tijuana Flats locations during the past weeks.

“The menu gets updated every year, but this one was pretty substantial,” said Brian Wheeler, founder and chief executive of Tijuana Flats. “We emphasized the fresh and light side of the menu.”

The new menu items include:

Fish Tacos: Two large soft tortillas with grilled grouper, fresh cabbage and handmade pico, topped with Southwest Citrus vinaigrette. Two tacos cost $7.49.

Fresh “Norrito” Bowls: Light salsa-based rice topped with black beans, handmade pico, fresh guacamole and green onions served in a bowl with a choice of beef, chicken, blackened chicken, steak, carnitas, refried beans or black beans. The beef or chicken bowls cost $6.19, the steak or carnitas $7.59, the refried or black beans $5.89. 

Bangin' Chicken Entrees: More than a third of a chicken tossed in the restaurant’s Smack My Ass Bangin' Chicken Sauce. It’s loaded with grilled onions and green peppers, tomatoes, cheese and ranch dressing. Customers can choose from the Tijuana Bangin' Chicken Burrito, Dos Bangin' Chicken Tacos, crispy corn taco shell or soft tortilla. Dos Bangin' Chicken Tacos are $7.49.

Bangin' Chicken Salad: A large, crispy whole-wheat tortilla shell filled with fresh greens and served with ranch dressing. It costs $7.99.

Bangin' Chicken Tostadas: Lightly fried, individual corn tortillas with refried beans and melted cheese. It’s served with a side of salsa and sour cream and costs $7.99.

Tijuana Flats is opening five new stores in 2011 and plans 15 new units in 2012, Wheeler said. The Tex-Mex concept competes against other category players such as Moe’s Southwest Grill, Qdoba and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Tijuana Flats’ average ticket is $9 and its units generate an average volume of $1.2 million, Wheeler said. Customers order at the counter, and Wheeler said it takes at most seven minutes for an order to arrive.

Tijuana Flats’ new healthful and light menu offerings are part of the company’s strategy of “staying ahead” in the very competitive Tex-Mex category, Wheeler said.

“We also brag about our freshness and not having freezers or microwaves,” Wheeler said. “We have been fresh for a long time, but never got points for it. Most restaurants are moving to the healthy side and that’s not a bad thing.”

The chain was founded in Winter Park, Fla., in 1995, and its 75 restaurants are located in Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. They’re usually in high-traffic areas and average 2,200 square feet.

Contact Alan Snel at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @AlansnelNRN

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