Habitual Fix founder James Tucker is set to bring fast, fresh Mexican food to Aucklanders from next month with the launch of Mad Mex, an Australian chain.
The first Mad Mex store opened in March in Lambton Square, Wellington. Botany and Fort St branches in Auckland open their doors next month, with outlets in Ponsonby (February) and Hamilton (May) to follow.
Tucker says he'd been looking at developing a Mexican restaurant brand from scratch, but after coming across Mad Mex in Melbourne, knew he'd struck gold.
"I absolutely loved the food, the fitout, the atmosphere – so instead of flying back to New Zealand that evening, I flew up to Sydney and met with the founders."
A few months later he'd secured Mad Mex franchising rights for New Zealand.
"New Zealanders have become a lot more adventurous with their food in the last three to five years," he says.
"Mexican is really one of the categories that's right at the forefront of that development. We see Mad Mex as being the strongest contender in that segment in New Zealand – fresh, healthy and served fast."
While sushi has been "done to death" here, Tucker thinks other Asian cuisines are due to come into their own.
"In particular, Vietnamese is something we're keeping a pretty close eye on. It's started to take off in Australia and that's potentially where the next big growth may come from."
Founder Clovis Young started Mad Mex in 2007 and now has more than 35 stores around Australia. Black beans, slow roasted meats and salsas made from scratch are the basis of Mad Mex's menus, and 'naked burritos' served without the flour tortilla are also available.
Spices, seasoning and chilis are being imported, but aside from that all the food is made locally, according to Tucker.
Tucker tapped into the hospitality industry at age 18 with a fruit and vegetable processing company that provided everything from pizza toppings to Subway fillings and produce to rest homes and hospitals. After a dalliance with Hell Pizza franchises, he launched sandwich/salad bar Habitual Fix with Tim Benest in 2008, which has now expanded to 12 locations in Auckland and elsewhere in New Zealand.
More Habitual Fix sites are planned for the next six months, he says, with new stores coming to Auckland and new menu ideas to be rolled out.
A new-look Habitual Fix is also being unveiled in Botany this week, with recycled wood and a more earthy aesthetic, which will likely be extended to existing outlets over the next 18 months.