Local Mexican restaurants face competition with Chipotle’s opening

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By Sarah Smith | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Local Mexican restaurants in downtown St. Augustine will soon be facing a new competitor as Chipotle Mexican Grill, a chain restaurant, opens it doors this summer in the Seabridge Square shopping center.

Chipotle is a well-known food chain that makes gourmet burritos and tacos using an assembly line, similar to how Subway makes custom sandwiches.

The increasingly popular restaurant has gained recognition for using locally grown products, offering vegan options and being environmentally friendly.

Chipotle is not the first restaurant to bring Mexican cuisine to St. Augustine. Burrito Works Taco Shop and Fiesta Jack’s Mexican Grill are both conveniently located downtown and have been serving a variety of Mexican food to residents and tourists alike.

Dusti Winters, a freshman at Flagler College, says that Fiesta Jack’s has been taking business away from Taco Shop.

“I think Taco Shop has been losing customers because Fiesta Jack’s is visually more appealing, better health wise and the price is better for the quantity you get,” Winters said.

Fiesta Jack’s also caters to Flagler students by offering a 10 percent discount when they show their student ID. The restaurant’s staff is also primarily made up of Flagler students.

Yet, the draw of Chipotle seems to be greater than that of Fiesta Jack’s. Students like Kerrie Piccolo, a sophomore at Flagler, have driven as far as Jacksonville to the nearest Chipotle just for a meal.

“Fiesta Jack’s has a downtown advantage, but I believe that many people will be willing to drive the extra few minutes out of downtown to get Chipotle. I know that I have no problem driving the 45 minutes to Orange Park to eat there,” Piccolo said.

The new business will definitely appeal to those who are diehard Chipotle fans, but what does this mean for the restaurants downtown?

“I don’t think either [Fiesta Jack’s or Taco Shop] will go out of business just because a lot of tourists like to eat in or around the historic district. They may lose business to locals who choose to go to Chipotle though,” Winters said.

Though they aren’t known nationally, Taco Shop and Fiesta Jack’s do hold an advantage over Chipotle. Not only are they closer to town, but they also offer fish and seafood, menu items Chipotle has yet to add.

Chipotle expects to open its doors early summer.

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