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Little Burro’s Mission to Spice up Hong Kong’s Food

Within two years, Little Burro — a new San Francisco-style burrito restaurant —has opened three branches in prime Hong Kong districts.

Little Burro was not a restaurant at the start, but a brand designed by multi-talented freelancer Roger A. De Leon, who wanted to create something that brought together friends and neighbours, happiness and friendship. And the burrito — De Leon’s all-time favourite food from San Francisco’s historic Mission District — came to mind. The Mission neighbourhood was founded by Spanish missionaries and still maintains a strong Latin flavour. De Leon, with no restaurant experience, brought his design ideas to local chef and restaurant incubator Lori Granito, whose recipes turned the ideas into real food — burritos, tacos, rice bowls and salads. The signature burrito is a Mexican-influenced soft flour tortilla, wrapped around a mix of rice, beans, slow-cooked meat, salsa and sour cream. The Spanish word burrito means “little burro”.

Little Burro’s Mission to Spice up Hong Kong’s Food

After opening its second shop in Sheung Wan in May 2014, Little Burro’s authentic burrito attracted the attention of the U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong, Clifford A. Hart, who visited the shop to taste the nostalgic dish from San Francisco’s Mission District. The shop’s interior is also distinctive. Wall paintings by street artists from around the globe invoke the spirit of San Francisco’s hip-hop, underground and subversive culture.

“I did not intend to open a restaurant, and neither did Lori. But we opened it, and now we have three shops. I have created a strong brand, with the right people, the right kitchen facility and in the right places. I feel like Hong Kong is a networking city. It is quite easy to meet the right people, get started and grow your business,” De Leon, Little Burro’s owner and co-founder, said.

Unlike doing business in the US, he said, Hong Kong people are very willing to get involved if you are doing something interesting. With a strong and focused brand, a delicious menu and a highly successful social media campaign on Facebook and Instagram, Little Burro has street-level restaurants located in Causeway Bay, Soho and Sheung Wan. Meats are prepared in Lori’s kitchen in Sheung Wan, while salsas and guacamole and other menu items are prepared fresh daily in the shops to serve a mix of international customers and local people.

Little Burro employs about 25 full-time and part-time staff, De Leon describes his employees as easy-going, proactive and hard-working. He hopes to hire staff who will grow with the company and become as successful as possible.

According to De Leon, the company has no immediate plan to expand regionally, but is open to discussions with global franchisees and have held expansion discussions with interested investors in Mainland China, Taiwan, India and the Middle East. The three partners — De Leon (the brand creator), Granito (the chef) and James Fisher, an ex-banker who looks after the restaurants’ operations and paychecks — have formed a “dream team” to develop an enviable F&B startup that is well supported by InvestHK and the Hong Kong community.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

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Fast Facts

  • Established in Hong Kong with three branches since 2013
  • Signature dish: San Francisco’s Mission District-style burrito

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