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From Miami to Houston and Beyond
Fast-casual Pincho is poised to share Miami's flavors with the world
Back in November 2010, a group of friends opened a restaurant in Miami’s Westchester neighborhood, selling pinchos (snacks, usually small kebobs) and burgers. What made the restaurant so different were its weekly outrageous specials that turned typical burgers into Miami-centric meals.
In today’s standards, these burgers — made with guava or fried queso, or substituting tostones for a bun — would become viral stars in their own right on TikTok or Instagram. Instead, Miami blogger Sef Gonzalez, better known as Burger Beast, was the catalyst to drive Pincho (then named Pincho Factory) to local fame.
CEO and founder Otto Othman explains, “We became well known after Sef wrote a review on Burger Beast. We became famous. That was the beginning of it all.”
Soon, all of Miami started knocking on the restaurant’s door — and the awards started rolling in. Pincho Factory’s fries were named the best by a local television station, and its burgers won the coveted South Beach Wine & Food Festival Burger Bash twice — a title usually reserved for restaurants owned by Food Network celebrities like Bobby Flay and Michael Symon.
Pincho Factory continued to grow, with Othman finally quitting his “day job” at an ad agency in 2013. The company was poised to expand, but there was one setback, according to Othman: Many people outside Miami who weren’t aware of Latin culture didn’t equate the name Pincho Factory with delicious fast casual food. “I would attend food conferences out of state to meet different restaurateurs and they thought ‘Pincho Factory’ was some factory named Pincho.” Othman decided to conduct a completely unofficial survey. “I hopped on a plane to O’Hare Airport in Chicago and asked random people what they thought of the name. Most of them didn’t understand the name. I realized then I would have to change the name if we wanted to grow outside of the Miami area.”
Othman and his team changed the name to Pincho Burgers and Kebobs. The restaurant, fueled by a new name and delicious food, grew to ten locations throughout Miami, including on campus at Florida International University and one located inside LoanDepot Park (the home of the Miami Marlins).
Last year, Utah-based Savory Fund partnered with Pincho, investing $20 million dollars into the company. The first move for Othman was to buy back his franchised restaurants. “Franchising did well for us but I really wanted to keep control of the consumer experience. I think there’s a time for franchising, but when it’s an emerging brand, it’s tougher,” he says.
Pincho’s next move is to expand outside of Florida, opening six restaurants in Houston, Texas. “Houston sounds like a perfect market,” says Othman, adding, “It’s massive. It’s ten times the size of Miami and a melting pot of different cultures.”
The first Houston Pincho is scheduled to open mid-June in the Cypress neighborhood, with a Memorial City restaurant following soon after. The other four will open strategically. “We’re being very thoughtful about it,” says Othman.
Othman is excited to bring a taste of Miami to Houston. “The last time a big brand came out of Miami it was Burger King. That was a while back.”
More than the food, Othman says his greatest accomplishment is creating new jobs for people — and nurturing the people who work at Pincho. “If I can look back and say I created 1,000 jobs and built a company where people are respected, I’ll be proud.”
Othman is also looking forward to showing the rest of the country the best of Miami. “This is a Latin fast-casual concept where we can put a focus on the Miami that locals know — Hialeah and Little Havana and all the places that make Miami special.”
Othman says Pincho’s growth reflects the company’s motto: Born in Miami. “We’re going to say, Born in Miami, now in Houston. We take a lot of pride in our city. We now get to set the tone of what the flavors of Miami are. As long as we stay true to our north star, we’re going to do well.”