The national trend toward consumers wanting not only fast food, but also fresh and non-processed food, is part of the driving force behind the openings, owners said. Though the ingredients themselves may still be high in calories, they're not from a freezer and fried; food orders are made fresh and put together right in front of the customer, they said. Lancaster County's lack of major competition in the burrito market also lends to the numerous openings, they said.
"The burrito segment happens to be a fast-casual style with tremendous popularity and no existing market competitor," said Blaze Cambruzzi, chief operating officer of Manheim Township-based LMS Commercial Real Estate, which is involved in placing some of the burrito businesses in the county.
Neato Burrito, a Dauphin County-based local chain, opened its sixth location in the fall at Foxshire Plaza in Manheim Township.
Neato Burrito owners had operated a vintage clothing and body-piercing store in Lancaster in the 1990s and knew the market in the county worked well for the business, owner Shayne Edmunds said.
Fiesta Burrito Bar opened April 4 in Mount Joy, the first nonfranchised business for owner Jay Patel.
Fiesta Burrito Bar opened in the small borough of Mount Joy because there were no other major competitors with Mexican or California-style food, Patel said. Patel owns and operates several franchises throughout Central and Eastern Pennsylvania.
Señorita Burrita closed its location in Lancaster but kept its market stand and will soon open a flagship café in the Shoppes at Landis Valley in Manheim Township.
Señorita Burrita had been established with a stand at the market and on Prince Street in Lancaster for nearly a decade before its new owner moved it out to Manheim Township, with a grand opening scheduled for June, co-owner Max Phillips said.
Roburrito's will open its fifth location in Lancaster, expanding out of York County.
"Lancaster is more of a food scene that I'd definitely like to be a part of," Roburrito's owner Rob McGrath said.
Being able to source many of his ingredients from the county also is a draw to the area, he said.
The business moved to a larger location that will become its flagship store and make the brand more available to much of its customer base, he said.
Señorita will continue to offer its signature burritos and freshly ground coffee, and it will also begin to sell some of its products separately, such as salsa, guacamole and soups, co-owner Kerry Egan said.
Egan wants to use its Central Market location as a model for opening smaller shops throughout the county, preparing some of the food and products at the Manheim Township location.
"Our goal is to be completely self-sustaining," she said.
To that end, the burrito business will begin to make its own tortillas and will continue to farm all of its own vegetables, she said.
Señorita also delivers to Lancaster businesses on Segways, she said.
"Our ingredients are fresh — you can taste all the individual flavors when you bite into our burritos," she said.
Roburrito's touts making its burritos from scratch, and McGrath plans to concoct his own craft-brewed beer to go with them in Lancaster, he said. His business will open its newest spot in Lancaster this summer on Prince Street.
"I make things exactly the way I like them. I'm really particular," he said of his burritos.
He said he also regularly changes and improves the menu, which his customers appreciate.
At Fiesta Burrito, prices and affordability are a part of his strategy for success, Patel said.
Quality of the food is also important, he said.
"We make our own salsa and seasoning for all the mixes and the beans," he said.
With 20 years behind them, the owners running Neato Burrito are regularly looking for options to expand their marketplace, Edmunds said.
They're also trying to find ways to improve service, such as a "shotgun line," he said. At Neato's Lemoyne store, customers can order burritos cafeteria-style to the left and the right instead of in just one direction, he said.
Neato's also has catering services for its fresh, not processed, food, he said.
Edmunds said he hasn't ruled out franchising the line as more locations open, "but we're in the local burrito shop business, and if we started franchising, we'd be in the franchise burrito shop business. We enjoy being local."
Editor's note: This item was modified from its previous version to correct the spelling of a name.