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Ajili Mojili to become first upscale Latin restaurant franchise in U.S. mainland

Moves to new Condado location, to open in Dorado


May 2, 2002
Copyright © 2002 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

The newly created and locally owned Ajili Mojili Group of Restaurants is investing $3 million to begin franchising the upscale Ajili Mojili restaurant, to open a new restaurant in Dorado, and to develop retail products and services. Ajili Mojili executives expect to rake in $8 million during their first year operating.

"Ajili Mojili Group of Restaurants was created to spearhead our expansion and diversification efforts," said Rafael Benitez, co-owner of the company. "We decided to expand because Ajili Mojili–the name of our specialty sauce–is already a well known brand name. People from all over the world come here and ask us to open a franchise in their city. Every night about 50 people come here because of recommendations by hotel concierges. We even have to turn people away because the restaurant is always full," he added.

For this reason, Ajili Mojili’s landmark restaurant, now in front of the "Window to the Sea" in Condado, will be moved to the former Bennigan’s location–a Caribbean Spanish style mansion built in the 1930s, according to Luis Sierra, co-owner of Ajili Mojili Group of Restaurants and the architect in charge of creating an authentic Puerto Rican atmosphere at the new location. The new dining area will have space for about 60 more people than the current location.

Ajili Mojili will also open a new restaurant in Dorado, which will feature an open-air bar and a large parking lot. This particular restaurant will also include a new cuisine presentation, Pincho y Varita, which serves Puerto Rican cuisine as if it were sushi. Benitez said that this type of presentation will be ideal for sports events.

The restaurant will also pop up in different cities of the U.S. mainland in about a year, according to Benitez, who said that there is already interest from people in cities such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Miami to have their own Ajili Mojili. The group’s other restaurant, La Habichuela Colora, may also be franchised in the future, said Benitez.

He also said that franchised Ajili Mojili restaurants outside of Puerto Rico will be supplied by local suppliers already in business with Ajili Mojili here on the island. "This way we will make sure that our dishes taste the same in every franchise." Some of the suppliers are Café Alto Grande, Caribik Sun, and Goya.

The group will also venture into retailing many of the products it already offers at its restaurants. Some of the products that may be purchased in the near future will be the Ajili Mojili sauce, a variety of specialty fritters, and a Puerto Rican-style hot sauce.

But that’s not all. The company has developed the "Llevatelokalle" (Take it home) concept. This concept is based on an idea brought to the group by Amigo in which people can buy Ajili Mojili dinners at the supermarkets.

The group’s other co-owners are Jose Benitez and Carlos Padilla.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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