Building a Better Burger

Pincho, Now in its Ninth Year, Gets Ready to Go National. Again.

In some ways, you could say that Otto Othman owes his success to the taste buds of Coral Gables. Yes, he also owes it to a good idea and plenty of hard work. But at the critical moment, it was the appetites of downtown workers and residents that launched a 10-location South Florida chain that is now ready to scale to a national brand.

The story is this: Otto and his cousins Nedal and Nizar Ahmad had started a new fast-casual restaurant called Pincho Factory, on Bird Road in Westchester. It was based on unique family recipes for burgers and the South American street food-on-a-skewer known as the “pincho.” But, after a year of tepid sales, it was about to go under. Instead, CEO Othman convinced his partners not to close, but to open a second location in Coral Gables.

That location, at the far end of Giralda Avenue – east of Galiano – did $1 million in business the first year. “After that I quit my marketing job and went into the business full time,” says Othman. The company immediately set up headquarters in the Gables, in an office building across the street from their winning location.

Picho Burger - Otto Othman
Otto Othman, CEO of Pincho

Over the following six years, the company expanded to 11 locations in Florida, and along the way became part of Endeavor, the Gables-based accelerator for young companies that want to scale up. They did a multi-million dollar raise in 2018, which they used to lay the foundation for a national roll out.

One of the first things they did was national market research on their brand. After a survey of 40 people in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, they decided to drop the word “Factory” from the name. It originally came from a shop that Othman saw during a trip to India called The Kebob Factory. That may work when everyone knows what a Kebob is, but outside of South America, the pincho is little known. “People were asking, ‘What do you guys manufacture?’” says Othman. “If you are non-Hispanic, and you don’t know what a pincho is, you read [the name] as an actual factory.”

So, today the name is just Pincho, and the chain has shrunk by one, from 11 to 10. That loss (their Doral location) was due to Covid-19. But, outside of that, the company has survived the pandemic in good shape.

“If you go fine dining, you go for the experience. But with fast casual it’s a little more transactional,” says Othman, meaning getting it to go – or eating quickly – is fairly common. Pincho decided not to furlough any employees, which represented “a significant hit” in the months before PPP grants defrayed expenses. What saved them was their loyal customer base. “The amount of support and love from the community was insane,” says Othman. “I have never seen so many people posting that you should support local brands.”

That brand may not be local for long, however. As the pandemic subsides, Pincho is ready to expand nationally. “What Shake Shack is to New York and In-N-Out is to California, Pincho is going to be for Florida,” says Othman.