Expansion is something of a foreign concept in the restaurant business these days, but one locally grown chain with a foreign flavor is bucking the trend.
Although all coronavirus pandemic restrictions haven’t been lifted, the El Mazatlan Mexican restaurants in the Bowling Green area are moving ahead with growth plans.
Responding to growth, much of it driven in recent months by online ordering and carryout, El Mazatlan is expanding its location in Fairview Plaza.
The Fairview El Mazatlan, one of four Bowling Green locations for the chain, will take over the former Larry’s Pizza space next door.
A building permit filed with the city of Bowling Green said the Mexican restaurant will spend about $450,000 to expand into the former pizza joint.
Opened in 2003, the Fairview Plaza restaurant was the first of four Bowling Green locations of the El Mazatlan chain that was started 20 years ago in Glasgow by Victor Garcia and Jesus Camarena.
Now it may be the largest, rivaling the El Mazatlan on Cumberland Trace Road that has a seating capacity of nearly 500 in the converted seafood restaurant.
El Mazatlan also has Bowling Green locations on Nashville Road and on Dahlia Way off Louisville Road.
Ulysses Hernandez, a member of the El Mazatlan management team, said the locations have done well even during the pandemic.
He said the Fairview location in particular has experienced growth as pandemic restrictions have gradually been lifted.
“That restaurant needs to be a little bigger,” Hernandez said. “We plan to expand the party room and the bar, and we’ll have more seating inside. We’ll probably extend the hours, too.”
Hernandez expects the renovation and expansion to be completed within three months. And he said El Mazatlan’s growth in Bowling Green won’t end there.
A nine-year veteran with the chain who regularly appears in the restaurant’s social media advertisements, Hernandez said a new location is in the works.
He said plans are underway to build what he called an El Maz Express restaurant near Russellville Road and Campbell Lane.
“It will be mostly for drive-through business,” he said. “But it will have some sit-down dining.”
The El Maz Express will give the El Mazatlan chain 10 total locations in southcentral Kentucky. It has two in Glasgow and one each in Cave City, Munfordville and Franklin.
– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.