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Mesero Photo courtesy of Mesero
Mesero will open two new locations this year outside of its hometown market of Dallas, with three in its sights next year.

Why now is the right time for Mesero to expand beyond Texas

The restaurant is targeting Nashville and Oklahoma City this year, with three additional locations in its sights for next year.

Mesero Restaurant Group was founded in 2011 and has gone through some ups and downs, including a $1 million settlement in 2018 with one of its founders accused of theft. The Dallas-based company has since bounced back and then some, and it is now positioned for expansion into new markets, targeting Nashville and Oklahoma City this year, with more in its sight for next year.

“If this year goes like it should go, we would like to see accelerated growth, so going from two this year to three next year,” CEO and co-founder Trey Dyer said during a recent interview.

Currently, there are seven locations in the Mesero fold, all within the DFW market. Dyer said the timing is right to stretch the company’s legs a bit because Covid “was a great eye opener” for what opportunities exist, opportunities that duplicate Texas’ operating environment.

“I don’t want to end up in a climate wondering why a Big Mac costs two times as much and then the diner starts trading their diner dollars for something else or eating at home,” Dyer said. “There is a finite level where the equation breaks, and everyone is trying to consider that while making sure they’re paying a fair wage for their employees. The solution is avoiding those markets.”

Dyer said Nashville and Oklahoma have the operating environments he’s looking for, which is why they have become a near-term priority.

“I don’t want to call it pro-business, but they understood that everyone needed to continue working and not change society’s DNA. If you look at the map, then you can start targeting what markets you want to be in,” he said. “We are 1,000% intentional.”

Mesero isn’t the only company targeting these markets. Restaurant industry jobs in Tennessee are expected to grow by nearly 12% by 2030, according to the state’s restaurant association, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the number of restaurants in Oklahoma City has grown each of the past 10 years.

“Nashville is a booming restaurant town,” Dyer said. “Oklahoma City is one of those towns where you don’t hear about it much, but it has this feeling that Nashville had four or five years ago. I was up there visiting another property and found out Restoration Hardware is putting one of their 50,000-square-foot megastores there and if their team thinks their customer is there, then my customer is there too, and I want to be there.”

Dyer makes it a point to note that as Mesero expands into new markets, it will maintain its unique menu and employee proposition – its two points of differentiation. That menu is “someplace between Tex-Mex, Mexican and American,” with award-winning cheeseburgers and chili dogs alongside enchiladas and rice and beans.

“We differentiate ourselves in that we have seared tuna on our menu and there’s vegan stuff on our menu and it’s not just about typical Tex-Mex, which you actually have to hunt to find,” Dyer said. “There’s something for everybody.”

Because of this variety, the average Mesero customer visits 3.1 times a week, he adds, whether for lunch, happy hour or a family dinner.

For the employee piece, Dyer said the company prioritizes transparency and technology to make their jobs easier. Further, during the pandemic, Mesero kept employees’ salaries intact and staffed up while most other concepts trimmed rosters. This has continued to provide a tailwind, he adds.

“Our average employee made more during the pandemic because we stayed open and available. We were prioritizing them and still to this day when anyone says something will save us on labor, I tell them to have fun with that because that’s when the guest experience gets lost,” he said. “We go back to that old ‘Cheers’ style where your waiter knows your name and drink and you feel like they’re part of your family.”

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

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