La Granja Peruvian restaurants
At La Granja restaurants, it's all about serving homemade food fast.
Red menu boards offer rotisserie chicken with rice and beans, grilled steak, seafood platters and other Peruvian cuisine concocted by Gustavo Bartra, La Granja's founder and chef.
The family-owned restaurant chain — recently recognized by a trade publication as the largest Peruvian restaurant chain outside of Peru — is on a mission to expand across South and Central Florida.
Within the past eight months, it opened restaurants in Lauderdale Lakes, Plantation, Oakland Park, North Miami and Orlando. By the end of the year, it plans to have at least four more restaurants: in Fort Lauderdale, Doral, Hialeah Gardens and Stuart.
In all, the Margate-based company's portfolio includes over 50 restaurants, 32 corporate-owned and eight run by franchisees, some of them former employees.
"Every time we open a restaurant, we have people already waiting for us," said Claudia Bartra, one of the owners of the Peruvian restaurant chain. "That's very satisfying."
La Granja started in 1993 in Aruba, an island the Peruvian family often visited and which is home to two La Granja outlets. The chain's U.S. debut came in 1995. Expansion quickly followed.
"La Granja grew here, in the land of opportunity," Bartra said. "We found there was demand for our food here, demand for fresh, homemade food."
Bartra — one of three siblings running day-to-day operations — said La Granja's fastest expansion happened during the recession. It opened about 15 restaurants between 2007 and 2010, she said.
"We filled restaurants by lowering our prices," Bartra said. "It was difficult, we had to work hard with our suppliers to keep prices down, but we wanted to be a place where people could still dine out."
At La Granja, lunchtime crowds can fill up with sizable portions of rice, beans and one-fourth of a chicken for $4.45. The chain strives to serve customers in five minutes or less.
"I've been a fan since 2000," said Jesenia Espaillat of Hollywood, after having lunch at La Granja along with her four children. "If I want something good, healthy, fast and affordable, I come here."