Las Iguanas launches in South Africa

Angelique Ruzicka finds out more about a new fast food outlet due to launch in South Africa this year. But will Mexican and South American dishes be a hit with locals?

Over the years South Africans have been treated to a whole host of international fast food chains, restaurants and coffee franchises launching nationally in the hope to woo local consumers. More recent additions include StarBucks, Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins, Krispy Kreme, Burger King, Dominos Pizza, and Pizza Hut, which re-entered the South African market a couple of years ago.

But now a new fast food outlet called Las Iguanas is set to launch in South Africa this year, hoping to capture hearts and taste buds. It specialises in authentic Mexican, Brazilian and South American food and cocktails and is owned by Gold Brands, the only listed fast-food retail company on the JSE AltX in South Africa. While it boasts Mexican/South American themed dishes it’s confusingly a UK mid-market restaurant brand.

Still, the company’s management believe it will entice South African customers. “South Africans are always hungry for new places to dine, and Las Iguanas will fill the gap with this fantastic, well established concept,” says Stelio Nathanael, chief operating officer of Gold Brands, which will open the first outlet in Johannesburg in June.

While the jury is out on whether Mexican dishes will be a hit with South African customers, you can’t deny that the company has no expertise in what local consumers like. Gold Brands, the brainchild of restaurant-industry veterans Stelio and his wife Praxia, was established in 2012 and has become one of the leading franchise companies in South Africa. In addition to its existing brands: Chesanyama; Blacksteer; 1+1 Pizza Pasta; Opa!Pitaland; and Chicken Wild Wings; the company has added top UK brands from the Casual Dining Group: Las Iguanas, Café Rouge, Belgo and Bella Italia, to its expanding portfolio.

The company believes it will benefit from the poor economic conditions many South African’s find themselves in. “Fewer South Africans can afford to spend money on indulgent holidays these days, and they’re spending their money on dining out instead,” says Stelio. “Casual dining is becoming increasingly popular in South Africa, and Gold Brands is excited to be part of this booming market.”

Food and cocktails

An integral part of Las Iguanas’ identity is its extensive cocktail offering, which boasts a variety of classic South American serves, such as mojitos, caipririnhas and margaritas.

Its food menu draws inspiration from flavours across South America, featuring a large range of tacos, alongside a selection of Mexican classics and tapas style small plates, among other favourites. Its Buenos Airies burger also won the UK Casual Dining Magazine National Burger Awards in 2017.

Las Iguanas will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, with specials added daily. However, when asked what prices diners could expect, a spokesperson said: “The menu is still being structured and final pricing is still to be done.”

A bespoke children’s menu will be available too, which has been designed with Aardman animations, a world renowned animation company behind Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run, so that it is easily navigable for children.

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