“1 Billion Meals by 2025” is written on one wall. A big green neon sign in the center of the venue flashes, “Let’s Beat World Hunger.”
Zambrero, a self-proclaimed “Mexican restaurant with a mission,” aims to serve 1 billion meals to those in need in the developing world by 2025.
Most Americans have probably never heard of the fast casual chain, as it has only recently expanded to the United States. this past March, with locations in Warwick, R.I. and, more locally, Harvard Square. However, Zambrero already has 189 restaurants worldwide, in countries including Thailand, Ireland, and Australia.
Zambrero’s history stretches back to 2005, when Sam Prince had the idea to start a restaurant that could also provide philanthropic relief. He believed that successful businesses can also help those in need. This humanitarian spirit stems from his parents, who came from humble beginnings in rural Sri Lanka. They lived in a cycle of poverty, but were able to break out of it through the gift of free education. This generosity allowed them to immigrate to Scotland and later Australia to raise their family.
As a 21-year-old medical student, Prince found that there was no Mexican cuisine available in his town of Canberra, Australia. Realizing an opportunity, he set out to create Zambrero, a fast casual Mexican restaurant that aims to both serve delicious Mexican cuisine and provide meals to those in need.
Zambrero accomplishes this feat under its Plate 4 Plate Initiative, through which it works with charities, such as Rise Against Hunger and Foodbank, that specialize in distributing meals to impoverished communities across the world. For every meal sold, Zambrero donates one meal to someone in need, with 21 million donated so far. It tries to target developing countries and low-income areas in Australia. In addition, Zambrero makes sure to coordinate with the charities so that resources are not wasted or sold for profit.
Zambrero quickly expanded from its Canberra location to all across Australia, becoming an authentic source for Mexican eats. Then, locations were established in Asia and New Zealand. Zambrero was recognized as one of Australia’s fastest growing franchises from 2011 to 2014, according to the Business Franchise Australia.
Zambrero’s U.S. operations manager Steve Anderson succinctly summarizes its success:
“We have found a way to make great quality food in a quick service space.”
They try to locally source most of their ingredients from Massachusetts farms, which results in a fresh, homemade taste. One can often see multiple crates of freshly picked fruits and vegetables positioned behind the counter.
Zambrero’s menu hosts the quintessential Mexican dishes: burritos, bowls, tacos, and nachos. The restaurants also have gluten-free and vegan options, along with a kids menu. There are even Chikitos, which are smaller versions of burritos, for those times when customers don’t have the appetite for a hefty burrito.
All of the food is made to order, and customers have the ability to choose what they want in their meals. With original recipes for guacamole and salsa, one may be tempted to get everything. Moreover, there is a line of six original sauces ranging from the titillatingly spicy Red Chilli to the sweet and tangy Secret Barbeque.
The chicken, beef, and pork are cooked sous vide for 18 hours to produce a richer and more defined flavor. This process is done off-site using a special patented machine called “Esmeralda.”
In addition, Zambrero uses a black rice rather than the typical white or jasmine rice for additional health benefits.
“The black rice has spirulina and amaranth seed, resulting in a superfood that’s very good for both the mind and the body,” said Anderson.
Zambrero also cooks its rice al-dente to give it a different, denser texture. This gives the burritos an added crunch that provides variance and excitement in every bite.
In regards to the future, Zambrero hopes to expand further and send a message to the restaurant industry that philanthropy can be a positive component of any business model.
Featured Image by Shan Rizwan / For The Heights