Hot Head Burritos

Hot Head Burritos
and Cynde Wiley
Dayton, Ohio
ANNUAL SALES: Undisclosed
to choose from, diners at Hot Head
Burritos can control the degree of
spiciness in their food with a great
degree of precision.
“We have really expanded on
our sauces,” says Ray Wiley, who
started Hot Head Burritos with his
wife Cynde almost five years ago.
“We opened with only one or two.”
Wiley describes the signature
Hot Head Sauce as “a zesty garlic
sauce with medium heat.”
“The next most popular sauce is Sweet
Habanero, which has a little heat, and then
Extreme Habanero, which is pretty warm but
also sweet,” Wiley says. “There are a number
of other sauces, including a Straight Habanero, for those who really like it hot.”
Spicy Sauce is the proprietary sauce recipe that makes the difference between the
steak and spicy steak choices on the list of
proteins customers can choose to add to their
burrito, bowl, tacos, or nachos. Other protein
choices are chicken, spicy chicken, pork, and
ground beef.
“For the spicy steak and spicy chicken,
we just add Spicy Sauce to it,” Wiley says.
“The addition became so popular, we started
offering the Spicy Sauce just as a sauce, too.”
The four salsas include Pico, which is mild;
Corn and Verde, both described as medium;
and Wild, a hot salsa.
Wiley says having the word hot in the
name of the concept was an unanticipated
hurdle early on for Hot Head Burritos. “From
Mild to Wild” was added to marketing materials to reassure those who don’t like hot food
that there are also choices for them at Hot
Head Burritos.
Spicy wasn’t a word the Wileys used
much in the past, since the couple had been
Subway operators for about 20 years.
“We had 10 Subways and wanted to get
bigger, but the Dayton area was full,” Wiley
says. “We started looking at Mexican chains
and thought we could do it better ourselves
rather than become franchisees of an existing concept.”
That included Cynde developing all of the
recipes for Hot Head Burritos.
“It took a couple of months to develop flavor profiles we were satisfied with, but we
really haven’t changed them much since,”
Wiley says.
While Cynde worked in the kitchen testing recipes, Wiley developed the concept’s
identity, from the name and logo to the décor.
“I always had the dream in the back of my
head to become a franchisor,” he says.
Originally, the concept’s menu consisted of
burritos, tacos, and “N-a-Bowl” choices. Then
nachos were added, as were smaller portions
called the Li’l Bowl and Li’l Burrito. “The
other Mexican chains are serving these huge
portions, and a lot of people were coming to us
and saying it was just too much,” Wiley says. | QSR | DECEMBER 2011
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A regular-size chicken burrito is priced
at $6.29, while the Li’l Burrito is $4.39. An
average ticket per person at Hot Head Burritos is about $8.
The ground beef protein choice was initially just for kids’ meals, but is now available
in any of the menu items. “It’s seasoned but
not spicy, and a lot of adults order it,” Wiley
says. “We sell a lot of the ground beef. “
Most Hot Head Burritos locations are in
Ohio, with one store in Pennsylvania and two
in Northern Kentucky.
“We have about 20 more in some level
of development,” Wiley says. “Primarily in
the Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus areas.
But we are utilizing an area-developer program to develop franchises throughout the
United States, which should result in a couple of hundred stores. We’re pretty aggressive
and looking at growing pretty fast.”
Wiley hopes to see “a minimum of 40
stores” open in 2012.
“We seem to double about every year,” he
says. “We started 2011 with 10 or 11 stores
and will end the year with close to 30.”
The Wileys still operate 10 Subway restaurants in addition to Hot Head Burritos. He
says they are compatible concepts.
“One of the things we learned from being
a Subway franchisee and putting our first
Hot Head Burritos location next to a Subway is that it didn’t affect business at the
Subway,” Wiley says. “Everybody is trying
to get the customer once a week. We learned
we could add a Hot Head Burritos next to
an existing restaurant and get the customer
twice a week.”
Hot Head Burritos locations are generally
open from 10:30 A.M. to 10 P.M.
“We’re all over the board when it comes
to customers,” Wiley says. “But generally,
18–45-year-old males are our primary customers. Secondary would be females of the
same age, but we see a lot of young kids,
older adults, and families.”
A few of the Hot Head Burritos locations have done well near college campuses
or in downtown business districts, but
Wiley says he prefers suburban neighborhood strip malls.
“Business is consistent there, and I can get
really good help,” he says. “Plus it’s more of a
family atmosphere and we cater to a lot of families, especially in the evening.”
Judy Kneiszel is QSR’s Ones to Watch reporter. Contact her
at [email protected]