Mexican chain rolling into Richmond

Richmond's first Cafe Rio has a space being built at the Corner at Short Pump. (photos by Michael Thompson)

Richmond’s first Cafe Rio has a space being built at the Corner at Short Pump. (photos by Michael Thompson)

Another national restaurant brand wants a taste of the Short Pump market, and it’s hungry for growth in other parts of the region.

Café Rio early next year plans to open its first location in central Virginia in the Corner at Short Pump shopping center at West Broad Street and Lauderdale Drive.

The Utah-based company, which competes with the likes of Chipotle and Qdoba, first signed a 10-year-lease for the 3,000-square-foot property in 2012. It had been waiting on nearby development before moving forward with the project. Its space is under construction.

Eric Anderson, Café Rio’s development manager, said the company is considering opening more Richmond-area locations at Willow Lawn and Midlothian.

Cafe Rio will share a newly built strip with Zoes Kitchen, another new arrival to the market.

Cafe Rio will share a newly built strip with Zoes Kitchen, another new arrival to the market.

“We’re projecting to do at least three locations down there,” Anderson said.

The area doesn’t lack for Mexican options in what is known as the fast-casual segment of the restaurant industry.

Chipotle has six locations around Richmond. It recently announced plans to raise menu prices at all its stores.

Café Rio will also have to contend with the area’s four Qdoba’s and four Moe’s Southwest Grills, along with a slew of other fast-casual chains, such as Panera Bread and new-to-Richmond Zöes Kitchen.

The space is being built in a newly constructed strip within the Corner at Short Pump that will include the Zöes Kitchen location. It’s part of the 47-acre, Kroger-anchored shopping center.

Café Rio, which boasts a “no microwaves and no freezers” policy, has four Virginia locations in Burke, Chantilly, Falls Church and Manassas in the Northern Virginia market.

“It was the logical next step from D.C. down to other parts of Virginia,” Anderson said of the company’s southern expansion.

It has a total of 72 locations across 11 states. In March, The Wall Street Journal reported Café Rio was speaking to banks about going public.

Steve and Patricia Stanley opened the first Café Rio in 1997 in Utah. They opened five more before selling the business in 2004 to Bob Nilsen and Saunders Karp & Megrue. SK&M was eventually acquired by Apax Partners, a UK-based private equity firm.

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R Sweeney
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Forget Mexican, what this town needs is a Pappadeaux seafood.

Best chain food in the nation.

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