Burrito company plans to expand with more stores

Mary Ellen Knewtson

After the first Freebirds World Burrito opened in California in 1987, the burrito chain restaurant quickly found a formula for success: Target the throng of hungry students on the nation’s college campuses. Now, the owners of Freebirds are hoping to follow their die-hard fans after graduation to working life, with plans to build 38 new locations nationwide next year — bringing the total number of Texas locations to 60. The new locations will mostly be in Texas suburbs, said Daniel Harf, spokesman for Tavistock, a company that has owned the Freebirds chain for two years. “Originally, the model was building on or near college campuses. [Tavistock] took it a step further. We realized the students grow up,” Harf said. He said the restaurants will be built in neighborhoods with heavy concentrations of young families. Each location will require 50-75 employees and managers, he said. “People need jobs,” Harf said. “We’re thrilled to be in a position where we can put people to work.” Shawna Southard is an assistant general manager at the Freebirds on South Congress Avenue. She has been with the company for five years and remembers volunteering for many causes, including Adopt-A-Family. “Right now we have a Christmas box set up for Adopt-A-Family,” she said. According to the Salvation Army’s website, the Adopt-A-Family program pairs impoverished families with a group or business, Freebirds in this case, that can provide the family with gifts and food during the week before Christmas. Southard said she likes incorporating community outreach into her job. “I like how you can still be yourself,” she said of her experience at Freebirds. Economics freshman Sahil Raj said he remembers enjoying his first visit to Freebirds. “The first time I got my car, I took my friends there,” Raj said. “I try to go back when I’m in town.”