Nearly 25 years ago, Rodney Anderson set out to build the perfect burrito, opening his Pancheros Mexican Grill in downtown Iowa City.
Now the restaurant chain is about 70 stores strong, with a new location in west Davenport. Pancheros opened its doors Tuesday at 902 W. Kimberly Road in the Village Shopping Center.
Anderson, the company’s founder and president, said the company-operated restaurant marks the second of what he hopes will be at least three Quad-City locations. Pancheros entered the market with a franchise store in May 2005, along Davenport’s Utica Ridge Road.
About two years later, “We realized we wanted a broader appeal beyond the college towns,” he said. Anderson said the company expanded from 1998 to 2003 with suburban restaurants and in 2004 introduced its first franchises.
The chain now operates across the Midwest, and in New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania and employs a total of 400 to 500 people.
About 1998, Pancheros decided on a “more upscale concept” shifting to fresh-pressed tortillas made daily in the stores as well as “perfectly mixed ingredients.”
“We’re focused on simplicity,” said Barry Nelson, the company’s operations vice president. Customers choose from five meals: burritos, quesadillas, bowls, tacos or salads; and four entrees: chicken, carnitas, steak and tofusada. But after those choices, they can build it however they choose, he added.
Pancheros also prides itself in mixing up the ingredients in a burrito “so you get every ingredient in every bite,” Nelson said.
The solution, he said, was a proprietary mixing spatula — designed specifically for Pancheros, that mixes the ingredients without tearing the tortilla. Affectionately known as “Bob the Tool,” a pair of the special spatulas are criss-crossed and included in Pancheros’ corporate logo.
Davenport’s 2,400-square-foot restaurant is the latest addition to the Village Shopping Center joining Pet Supplies Plus, which opened earlier this month.
It marks the 28th Pancheros in Iowa and 69th nationwide. Pancheros, which has eight restaurants in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids corridor, is about to open its 28th Iowa store in Waukee.
Anderson said the Coralville, Iowa-based company “wanted to expand its presence in the Quad-Cities for a couple of years,” but has been waiting for the right location. The Village store occupies a prominent corner of the retail center fronting Kimberly Road.
The company also hopes to expand to the Illinois Quad-Cities, likely in Moline, but is still looking for a location, he said.
“One hundred (new restaurants) would be a short-term goal and would change stuff for us on a national basis,” Anderson said. “There’s a lot of room to grow.”
On Tuesday, Pancheros announced it will expand its online ordering system with a new mobile app. For more information, visit www.pancheros.com/menu.