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Chain vets collaborate to build Spanish chain

Four veteran chain builders have joined forces to parlay a Mississippi taco and tapas concept into a contender in the casual market.

Babalu Enterprises LLC brings together Mike Stack, a one-time leader of McAlister’s Deli; Ned Lidvall, who logged considerable time at Rock Bottom; Bill Latham, a former CEO of Amerigo; and Al Roberts, a Bennigan’s alumnus who co-founded Amerigo with Latham. Latham and Roberts also run a Five Guys franchise.

They’re collaborating on Babalu Tacos & Tapas, a Spanish concept that now has a single outlet, in Jackson, MS. The tacos range in price from $7, for chicken, beef, pulled pork or vegetarian versions, to $8, for smoked pork belly or rosemary-marinated steak variations.

Tapas include such choices as a braised short rib with grits and black-eyed pea relish ($9.95); seared tuna with roasted peanut slaw ($11.95); and grilled lamb loin, with chimichurri and cous cous.

In announcing the launch of a development company to build additional Babalus, Roberts noted that the brand will use upscale ingredients for tacos, like soft shell crab and herb-roasted chicken.

“Our guacamole is prepared tableside using select Haas avocados and other fresh ingredients,” said Roberts, who developed Babalu with Latham. “And we have a full-service bar, featuring Spanish and domestic wines, margaritas made with fresh-squeezed limes, premium mojitos, and other custom-crafted cocktails.”

The concept has a footprint of less than 4,000 square feet, with patio seating.

The foursome noted that they plan to franchise Babalu.

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