Baja Fresh

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Baja Fresh
Industry Restaurant
Founded August 1990; 26 years ago (1990-08)
Newbury Park, California, U.S.
Founder Jim Magglos and Linda Magglos
Headquarters Scottsdale, Arizona[1], U.S. (2016–present)
Number of locations
162 (September 2016)[1]
Area served
  • United States
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Singapore
Key people
Chuck Rink (CEO and president)[2]
Products Mexican-style fast casual food
Owner Kahala Brands
Parent MTY Food Group

Baja Fresh is a chain of fast-casual Tex Mex restaurants founded in Newbury Park, California in 1990 and headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona and is owned by Canadian franchisor MTY Food Group.[1] The chain emphasizes fresh ingredients, and each restaurant features a self-serve salsa bar.

At the time of its acquisition by MTY in 2016, the chain operated 162 restaurants in the United States, Dubai, and Singapore, most of which are franchised.[1]


Baja Fresh's former logo, used until 1997.
Baja Fresh's former logo, used from 1997 to 2010.
A Baja Fresh restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California in 2008.


In 1990, Jim and Linda Magglos took out a third mortgage on their home[3] and opened the first Baja Fresh in Newbury Park, California in the Conejo Valley. Franchising began in 1995,[3] and the chain had expanded to 31 outlets by 1997.[4] In 1998, the Magglos worked with Greg Dollarhyde and Pete Siracusa, who recapitalized the parent company, acquired venture capital and bought shares from outside holders to take control of Baja Fresh.[3][5] Dollarhyde became CEO with Siracusa as Chairman and Magglos as President, they then grew the chain from 45 locations in 1998 to 249 stores.[6]


In 2002, Wendy's International purchased Baja Fresh for $275 million.[7] As a wholly owned subsidiary of Wendy's, the 249 restaurant chain[8] saw consistently declining same store sales.[8] In 2006, Wendy's sold the roughly 300-location Baja Fresh chain for $31 million to BF Acquisition Holdings, a private investor consortium that had operated franchised restaurant units for such chains as Sweet Factory, Cinnabon and Denny's.[9] At the time of the firm's acquisition by BF Acquisition Holdings in 2006, Baja Fresh had 144 company-owned and 154 franchised locations located in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington as well as the District of Columbia.[10] The consortium was led by David Kim, who took on the role of CEO,[8] and later appeared on Season 2 episode 20 of the reality TV series Undercover Boss.[11]

In 2009, Baja Fresh moved its corporate headquarters from Thousand Oaks to Cypress, California,[4] and closed all locations in central Ohio.[12]


Between 2009 and 2010, the chain closed stores in Berkeley, Pasadena and Torrance, California. When the chain opened its first international location in Dubai in 2010, the chain also had 255 restaurants in 28 U.S. states.[13]

In late 2011, the company moved its main corporate office from Cypress to Irvine. In early 2012, the chain closed its store in Newbury Park, California although this was a different location in Newbury Park than the original site of the first Baja Fresh.[14] On April 12, 2013 Baja Fresh closed all 5 locations in Phoenix, Arizona without notice.[15]

On April 5, 2012, David Kim stepped down from his position as company CEO. His position was assumed by company president Chuck Rink, who began to hold both titles.[2]

Five Phoenix-area locations were closed by a franchise operator in 2013.[16]

In September 2016, it was announced that Baja Fresh's parent, BF Acquisition Holdings, was sold to MTY Food Group for $27 million.[1] At the time of the acquisition by MTY, Baja Fresh had 162 restaurants and its sister company La Salsa had 23 restaurant with 16 of the combined 185 locations were franchised.[1] It is unclear if the new owner would combined the two chains or keep them separate. In an earlier press release announcing MTY's acquisition of Kahala Brands just two months previously, MTY gave the vague statement that "Kahala will stay in Kahala's current headquarters... while MTY's US operations will move into Kahala's offices".[17] This statement could imply that Baja Fresh might become a subsidiary of Kahala instead of just sharing space with Kahala and reporting directly to MTY corporate headquarters in Canada. Published newspaper reports are not very clear about the exact relationship between Kahala and MTY units in the United States.

International expansion[edit]

The first location outside of the United States was open inside the Dubai Mall in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in 2010 by franchise owner Vetra Investments.[13] By the end of 2011, two additional locations were opened in Dubai at the Mall of the Emirates and Deira City Centre plus another location in Sharjah by the same franchisee.[18] A fifth UAE location was opened at Mirdiff City Centre in Dubai in 2014.[19] By the end of 2015, the lone location in Sharjah and the locations at the Dubai Mall and the Deira City Centre in Dubai were closed and replaced by new location in the Yas Mall in Dubai.[20] In August 2016, Vetra opened a food truck in Dubai.[21]

The first location in East Asia opened in Singapore in 2012 by franchisee Gloria Foods Pte. Ltd.[22] A second location in Singapore was opened in 2015.[23]

La Salsa[edit]

La Salsa is a subsidiary of Baja Fresh since 2007 when it was acquired by CKE Restaurants. Similar to Baja Fresh, La Salsa is a chain of fast-casual Tex Mex restaurants that has locations throughout the United States with most of the restaurants located in Southern California. Since its acquisition, the company had always shared corporate headquarter offices with Baja Fresh.

According to a 2008 article in the Orange County Register, the opening of La Salsa in 1979 predated the opening of similar chains such as Chipotle (1993), Baja Fresh (1990), and Qdoba (1995).[24]

The La Salsa restaurant chain was founded in 1979 by Howdy Kabrins as a single location at the corner of Pico and Sepulveda boulevards in West Los Angeles.[25] By 1986, there were six locations, all within Los Angeles County.[25]

The first mentioned of La Salsa being in Orange County was in an article that showed that La Salsa was at the MainPlace Mall in Santa Ana when the mall first opened in August 1986.[26]

The first San Diego area location was opened in Horton Plaza in August 1985.[27]

After expanding the La Salsa chain throughout Southern California, Kabrins sold control of the company to a consortium that included Sienna Holding and InterWest Partners in June 1992.[28][29]

La Salsa opened their first Northern California location, the 38th in the chain, in Sacramento in 1993.[30]

In July 1999, Santa Barbara Restaurant Group acquired La Salsa via a stock swap.[31] At the time of the acquisition, La Salsa had 98 locations throughout the United States with 48 of which were franchised and the rest company owned.[31][32][33]

CKE Restaurants obtained La Salsa in March 2002 when it acquired its then parent company, Santa Barbara Restaurant Group.[34][35]

In 2007, CKE Restaurants sold La Salsa to Baja Fresh for an undisclosed amount.[36][37] At the time of the sale, La Salsa had over 100 locations in approximately a dozen states.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Luna, Nancy (2016-09-12). "Irvine owner of Baja Fresh sold for $27 million to restaurant company tied to Pinkberry". Retrieved 2016-10-20. 
  2. ^ a b "Chuck Rink Appointed Chief Executive Officer of Baja Fresh® Mexican Grill". Business Wire (Press release). April 5, 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-04-10. Retrieved April 10, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Axelson, Barb (November 1, 2001). "Hurry Up & Relax Fast Casual is Booming". Restaurant Hospitality. (Subscription required (help)). 
  4. ^ a b Hoops, Stephanie (March 25, 2009). "Baja Fresh company leaves Thousand Oaks: Corporate operations are now in Orange County". Ventura County Star. 
  5. ^ Woo, Ken (December 3, 1998). "Investor Group to Take Control of Baja Fresh". Los Angeles Times. 
  6. ^ "Fresh Enterprises Inc. History". Funding Universe. 
  7. ^ "Wendy's diversifies with purchase of Baja Fresh". USA Today. May 31, 2002. 
  8. ^ a b c Jennings, Lisa (December 18, 2006). "Baja Fresh buyers look to inject new life into struggling chain" (PDF). Restaurant News – via QSR Consulting Group. 
  9. ^ Luna, Nancy (October 13, 2006). "Baja Fresh sold for $31 million". Orange County Register. 
  10. ^ "Baja Fresh Opens New Restaurant in Camarillo, California". PR Newswire (Press release). January 11, 2007. 
  11. ^ "Undercover Boss: Baja Fresh CEO Invests in the American Dream". CBS News. 2011-04-11. Retrieved 2016-10-20. 
  12. ^ Chronister, Bill (July 21, 2009). "Central Ohio bids adios to Baja Fresh locations". The Columbus Dispatch. 
  13. ^ a b "Quick-Causal Fresh Mexican Chain to Open in Dubai's World Famous Burj Khalifa". (Press release). January 22, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Baja Fresh Newbury Park Location Closed as of Tuesday, January 10th". Conejo Valley Guide. January 11, 2012. 
  15. ^ Gallen, Tim (April 12, 2013). "Baja Fresh closing all Phoenix-area locations". Phoenix Business Journal. 
  16. ^ Hahnefeld, Laura (April 12, 2013). "CLOSED: Every Baja Fresh in the Valley After Today". Phoenix New Times. 
  17. ^ "MTY Completes the Acquisition of Kahala Brands, Ltd.". PR Newswire (Press release). July 26, 2016. The operations of Kahala will stay in Kahala's current headquarters, located in Scottsdale, Arizona, while MTY's US operations will move into Kahala's offices. Mr. Jeff Smit, Kahala's Chief Operating Officer, will be leading the US operations of the combined entity. 
  18. ^ "Welcome to". Vetra Investments. Archived from the original on 2011-12-05. 
  19. ^ "Welcome to". Vetra Investments. Archived from the original on 2014-12-16. 
  20. ^ "Welcome to". Vetra Investments. Archived from the original on 2015-12-04. 
  21. ^ "Meals on Wheels: Food Truck Park 'Last Exit' opens in Dubai: Hosts more than 10 gourmet food trucks and convenience stores". Emirates 24/7. August 1, 2016. 
  22. ^ "Baja Fresh opens in Singapore". Fast Casual. March 19, 2012. 
  23. ^ "Free Burrito Day at Baja Fresh". The Straits Times. April 27, 2015. 
  24. ^ Luna, Nancy (June 16, 2008). "La Salsa aims to reclaim title of fresh-Mex king". Orange County Register. (Subscription required (help)). La Salsa, one of the first Southern California quick-serve chains to focus on made-to-order fresh-Mex food... La Salsa first opened in 1979 – long before Chipotle (1993), Baja Fresh (1990) and Qdoba (1995) Mexican grills came on the scene. The restaurant boasts taqueria-style soft tacos, exhibition kitchens and salsa bars – signature features now copied by dozens of quick-serve eateries. 
  25. ^ a b Lipson, Larry (February 5, 1986). "La Salsa Favorites Are Black And Blue And Popular All Over". Los Angeles Daily News. p. 16. (Subscription required (help)). Howdy Kabrins created his first La Salsa in 1979 on Pico and Sepulveda boulevards in West Los Angeles. He recently chose the San Fernando Valley for his sixth one, with the debut of La Salsa on the busy corner of Roscoe and Sepulveda boulevards in Van Nuys... La Salsa, 8267 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys... Other locations in Westwood, West Los Angeles, Marina del Rey, Beverly Hills and Newport Beach. Future outlets planned in San Diego, Glendale and elsewhere. 
  26. ^ "Ready, set, shop: What you'll find at MainPlace". Orange County Register. September 25, 1987. p. J06. (Subscription required (help)). 
  27. ^ James, Leslie (August 8, 1985). "An international choice of food at new Horton Plaza". San Diego Union Tribune. pp. DOWNTOWN–35. (Subscription required (help)). No one is likely to go hungry at the new Horton Plaza complex... Grazing will be grand with the likes of Boudin's Sourdough Bakery, Mrs. Fields Cookies, Pogo Pizza, Robin Rose Ice Cream (a Venice, Calif.-based shop peddling outrageously rich and flavorful ice cream), La Salsa Mexican eats, Everything Yogurt, Hot Dog on a Stick and Boardwalk Fries. 
  28. ^ Riggs, Rod (August 6, 1994). "Founder of La Salsa now main franchisee". San Diego Union Tribune. pp. C–1. (Subscription required (help)). Howdy Kabrins, who founded the La Salsa taqueria chain 15 years ago, has spent $1 million to become the company's largest franchisee. Kabrins bought five of La Salsa's 12 locations in San Diego County, plus sites in Costa Mesa, Malibu and Montebello. Kabrins opened the first La Salsa in Los Angeles in 1979. By 1987, the company owned 10 outlets in Southern California and began franchising. La Salsa came to San Diego in 1988 when it acquired five former El Pollo Loco sites. In 1992, Kabrins sold control of La Salsa Inc. to Sienna Holding of San Francisco and InterWest Partners of Menlo Park in what he calls a recapitalization. Terms were not disclosed. Adding 10 units in 1993, La Salsa Inc. grew to 21 company-owned and 22 franchised outlets with about $25 million in sales. 
  29. ^ "La Salsa Mexican Restaurants Completes Growth Financing". PR Newswire (Press release). June 23, 1992 – via The Free Library. 
  30. ^ "New Players Come to Capital". Sacramento Bee. October 17, 1993. p. E1. (Subscription required (help)). La Salsa sells fresh, healthy and authentic Mexican food, much of it low in fat, sodium and cholesterol. The first restaurant opened in Los Angeles in 1979 and Sacramento will be the 38th La Salsa. Headquarters are in Los Angeles and most of the restaurants are in Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange counties. 
  31. ^ a b Hernandez, Greg (June 9, 1999). "Green Burrito Parent to Acquire La Salsa: Santa Barbara Restaurant Group will buy rival chain. Value of sale is not disclosed.". Los Angeles Times. 
  32. ^ "Santa Barbara Restaurant Group and La Salsa Holding Company Announce The Execution of a Definitive Merger Agreement Whereby Santa Barbara Restaurant Group Will Acquire All of the Outstanding Capital Stock of La Salsa Holding Company". PR Newswire (Press release). June 8, 1999. 
  33. ^ "Santa Barbara Restaurant Group Completes Acquisition of La Salsa Holding Company and Appoints Kevin Osborn President of La Salsa and Green Burrito". PR Newswire (Press release). July 16, 1999. 
  34. ^ "CKE Restaurants, Inc. and Santa Barbara Restaurant Group, Inc. Announce The Signing of a Letter of Intent for CKE Restaurants To Acquire Santa Barbara Restaurant Group". PR Newswire (Press release). November 19, 2001. 
  35. ^ "CKE Restaurants, Inc. and Santa Barbara Restaurant Group, Inc. Set to Close Merger". PR Newswire (Press release). February 28, 2002. 
  36. ^ Luna, Nancy (May 29, 2007). "Anaheim investor to buy La Salsa". Orange County Register. CKE Restaurants is selling its 96-unit La Salsa chain to Baja Fresh, whose key owner is from Orange County... The chain had grown to 90 units when CKE Restaurants acquired it from Santa Barbara Restaurant Group in a $54 million all-stock deal in 2002. 
  37. ^ "CKE Restaurants, Inc. Announces Sale of La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill(R) Restaurants". PR Newswire (Press release). May 29, 2007. 

External links[edit]