By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle
January 10, 2015
PITTSFIELD — The owner of Hot Harry’s Fresh Burritos has teamed up with an industry veteran in order to significantly expand the Pittsfield-based fast-food franchise.
Richard Tarascio, a former vice president of Connecticut-based Wayback Burgers, has joined Hot Harry’s as the firm’s president. Owner Samir Abdallah, of Pittsfield, will continue to serve as Hot Harry’s executive vice president. The two men are equal partners, Tarascio said.
Under the new partnership, Hot Harry’s is planning to add 200 stores over the next five years, Tarascio said. Founded in January 2004, Hot Harry’s currently operates two stores in Pittsfield, three locations in New York’s Capital Region, and one in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A store in Lee closed in 2009 after its owner developed series health problems.
Hot Harry’s is also planning to open another shop in New Britain, Conn., by the end of February.
“Our goal is to get as many sites open as possible,” he said. “We’d like to be the Subway of the burrito business.”
As part of the expansion plan, Hot Harry’s is redesigning its restaurants, adding new menu items, and unveiling a new sign and logo, both Abdallah and Tarascio said. The chain is working with design professionals from Lasky Architects in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on interior plan updates for new locations. Hot Harry’s Connecticut store will feature the new logo.
For those interested in becoming involved, Hot Harry’s is holding a “Discovery Day” for potential franchise operators in New York, New Jersey and Vermont on Friday, Jan. 22 in Pittsfield. The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at a local hotel. For more information go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It’s not a big buy-in,” Tarascio said, referring to the cost of operating a Hot Harry’s franchise. “It’s something that the average person can do and it’s not going to break the bank.”
Tarascio, who lives in Connecticut, spent six and half years with Wayback Burgers, an international burger franchise with over 100 U.S. locations. When he started at Wayback, the chain has eight stores. It now has 100 U.S. locations, and 240 in development including outlets in Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Pakistan and Canada.
“He has the experience and knowledge to take us to the next level,” Abdallah said.
Hot Harry’s needed someone with Tarascio’s connections in order to expand significantly.
“We didn’t have the national connections,” he said. “It was my wife and I and my uncle (Faisal Ali, of Dalton, who owns the local Juice N’ Java chain). We were doing our best locally to grow. This way we have someone proven who can take us out of the unknowns.”
Tarascio discovered Hot Harry’s when his family stopped in Pittsfield to eat during a trip to the Berkshires in December 2014.
“My wife and son and I were on a weekend getaway to the Berkshires,” he said. “It was a Saturday afternoon and it was snowing. We went into eat and the rest is history.
“When I tried his products they were better than anything I ever tasted,” he said. “I was very successful with Wayback,” Tarascio said. “This was another opportunity to grow a concept. I was very, very interested before I met Samir.”
Burritos and Mexican-style food chains are a fast growing area in what Tarascio refers to as the “fast-casual” segment of the fast food industry.
“It’s always been a hot segment and it will continue to be so,” Tarascio said. “There’s not a lot of big players in the game. There’s a lot of mom and pops in every city. Not matter where you go there are people lined up to get the food.”