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Region: fast food grows fast

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

United States-based fast-food chains are growing rapidly throughout the region, including the arrival of the burger chains Smashburger and Carl's Jr. in recent weeks in Costa Rica.

More surprisingly, Central American brands are growing, not only in the region, but also in North America and around the world.

Honduras’ Power Chicken chain is heading for Venezuela. It is also planning to open two restaurants in Africa, ancestral home of a substantial proportion of Hondurans. One Power Chicken restaurant is to be established in Ghana, the other in South Africa.

Power Chicken is following in the footsteps of Guatemala's Pollo Campero, which combines street-wise culinary traditions with hard headed business skills.

Pollo Campero is Latin America's leading fast-food chain, with franchise restaurants throughout Central America, Mexico and the United States, as well as Ecuador, Spain, Indonesia and China, with a total workforce of some 7,000.

Now there is head-to-head competition in a related sector, between the United States-based heavyweight and various Central American upstarts.

Starbucks, the world's leading chain of coffee shops with 17,000 outlets in 55 countries, is about to launch in Costa Rica, following last year's successful start-ups in Guatemala and El Salvador.

But to take advantage of the growing demand by Central American consumers for better coffee, served in an attractive setting, local chains are emerging.

One of the most successful is Café Barista, which has 16 outlets in its home market of Guatemala, and which this year is planning to open a new outlet in Costa Rica.