Despite the difficult economy, one of the fastest-growing quick-service master franchise developers in Latin America and the Caribbean has no intention to slow down in 2012. Costa Rica-based QSR International’s plans for the year include opening at least 30 new restaurant units, opening three new countries for Quiznos and seeking additional franchise partners for new countries.

It would be difficult to find an entrepreneur with a better sense of Caribbean consumers’ fast-food demands than Mario Sabga-Aboud. The chairman of Pizza Boys Group of Companies can be described as a master in the industry on all aspects of cuisine from burgers and donuts to Chinese and coffee houses. He has made his fortune by bringing the next big fast-food fads to Trinidad and wherever else the demand can be found throughout the rest of the Caribbean.

Established in 1973, Panda Restaurant Group is one of the largest and most successful Chinese restaurant chains in the United States with close to 1,500 locations in 42 states, 20,000 employees and more than $1.6 billion in annual sales. This year, the Rosemead, Calif.-based company plans to open more than 100 new restaurants, some of which will be outside U.S. borders, says Robert Lustig, senior vice president of Panda Express International.

Kelly’s Roast Beef Inc. celebrated its 60th year in business last year, and although some restaurants lose their panache over the years, Kelly’s has only become more of an institution and its locations are local landmarks in a number of Massachusetts communities. It seems customers come back again and again, not just because their taste buds are delighted by Kelly’s extensive menu, but also because Kelly’s constant focus on customer satisfaction ensures each guest leaves with a quality experience.

Lawrence Hartzog’s dreams of running a successful fried chicken restaurant came true when he opened his first Hartz Chicken Buffet in southern Texas 40 years ago. The restaurant earned a reputation for having some of the best fried chicken in the South, and its fair prices and commitment to old-fashioned customer service enticed patrons to keep coming back. Before long, the restaurants began to multiply, and Hartz became a staple eatery in the Houston marketplace. 

Carlota Murillo’s traditional Mexican delicacies have come a long way since her days of pushing a cart full of gorditas to sell in the streets of Ciudad Victoria, Mexico. Today, Gorditas Doña Tota has moved off the sidewalk and into malls throughout Mexico. As evidenced by a successful launch into the competitive Texas marketplace, Gorditas Doña Tota continues to grow in popularity even 60 years after Murillo first began bringing her cart to well-traversed pedestrian routes.

People like to be free to choose what they eat, even when it comes to selecting ingredients. And giving the customers that power has made Genghis Grill’s concept quite appealing, CEO Al Bhakta says. “The customer is in charge of their own destiny” at the chain’s locations, he declares.

The culture within the Peter Piper Pizza organization is a resemblance of the customers it aims to serve – families. Though it has 35 corporate restaurants and 100 franchise locations domestically and internationally, Peter Piper Pizza has managed to say tight-knit and supportive while providing endless fun and great food – functioning just as family should. 

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