It’s a new era for On The Border, a Tex-Mex chain whose sales have been dwindling for years.
The once-popular Texas-based restaurant chain has been plagued with problems caused by cost-cutting measures: from ground beef (not enough flavor!) to tortillas (why don’t they taste fresh? ?), Food quality was affected at all levels. And customers started noticing it.
According Catering Company, From 2006 to 2021, On The Border’s sales have shrunk more than 36%, while its footprint has dropped 17% to just 125 locations, according to data from Technomic Ignite. Things weren’t going well for the 40-year-old chain, and something had to be done.
On The Border took action during the pandemic, hiring a new C-suite, including CEO Tim Ward and CFO Bruce Vermilyea, both of whom made immediate changes. The chain took a hard look at its menu and started making improvements. It added fat and flavor to the beef; launched non-Mexican items such as burgers and pizza; more complicated simplified items like its salads; introduces over 20 new items like the popular Smokehouse Fajitas and Honey Chipotle Shrimp Tacos; and brought back the tortillas made on the spot.
Plus, On the Border now has a brand new website, an easy-to-use online ordering system, and a digital waitlist that text customers when their tables are ready. Regular customers are rewarded with Border Rewards and the Queso Club membership program ($1 plus the price of a single bowl of queso gives members a free queso for an entire year when they dine).
And all that hard work paid off. For the first time in 15 years, On The Border is on track to record positive annual sales and is expanding to new locations, including Anchorage, Alaska.
“It’s an exciting time for everyone at On The Border,” Ward said. “After a tough year in the restaurant industry, we continue to prove that On The Border is a premium brand with staying power.”
Danielle Braff is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Read more