Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina – Restaurant Prototype


Client: Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina
Designed: 2013
Project Team:
David S. Tobin, AIA, Principal-in-Charge
Carrie Schulz, Intern Architect, Designer


Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina is a Charlotte headquartered “fast casual” Mexican restaurant operator and franchisee. Salsarita’s was originally conceived and founded by Bruce Willette of Charlotte in 2000. The concept proved successful and the number of stores had reached about 78 in 18 states by 2008. In 2011, Salsarita’s was purchased from Willette by an investor group led by former McAllister’s Deli CEO, Phil Friedman, who intended to take Salsarita’s to the next level of development, perhaps growing store numbers to a few hundred from about 80 at that time.

On that path, our firm was approached in early 2012 by Salsarita’s new President and COO, Larry Reinstein and we were engaged to develop the next generation store design concept for Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina. The existing prototype design was characterized by vibrant colors and rustic finishes but was clearly showing its decade old stylistic roots. It was time for a new, refreshed look to help Salsarita’s launch into a new decade of dramatic growth. Perhaps not revolutionary, but evolutionary in its approach, The ultimate solution was to update the concept, strengthen the unique and inviting aspects of the concept while introducing new ideas in interior and exterior architectural detail and materials, kitchen design, furnishings, lighting and marketing while holding a line on cost of ownership to franchisees.

With the transition in our own firm’s practice in late 2013, Salsarita’s elected to continue with TOBIN as their architect for prototype design. However, with the coincident departure of President and COO, Larry Reinstein, and the subsequent internal reordering of Salsarita’s leadership and shift in vision for their new prototype, our relationship with Salsarita’s ended as well.