1997s Hottest Businesses

Healthy Mexican Restaurants

Remember all that hysteria about the high fat content and inherent evil of Mexican food? Well, now there's an alternative: So-called "healthy" Mexican restaurants (often dubbed "fresh Mex") are opening at breakneck speed around the country--indeed, around the world. Apparently, diners want to have their guacamole and stay healthy, too.

La Salsa. Chico's Tacos. ZuZu Handmade Mexican Food. Las Fajitas. Cool Peppers Mexican Grill. The list of "light" Mexican fast-food restaurants is growing by leaps and bounds. "A restaurant concept is only as good as the pleasure it brings the customers," says Edward Anderson, president of Chico's Tacos, a chain of fresh-Mex restaurants. "The key to our success is taste and presentation."

The numbers justify--and fuel--Anderson's enthusiasm. According to the latest Census Bureau figures, sales of Mexican food are higher than any other type of ethnic cuisine, ringing up annual sales of $11 billion.

Some experts believe the healthification of Mexican cuisine is simply a reflection of trends in the restaurant industry--and changes in people's eating habits in general. Americans seem to be craving healthier fare. And if their hankering for an enchilada happens to coincide with a craving for something light, well, that's what fresh Mex is all about.

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This article was originally published in the December 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: 1997s Hottest Businesses.

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