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Spotlight on a Rising Mexican Restaurant: Federales

The Four Corners Group started its foray into the restaurant industry over 20 years ago with a neighborhood tavern in Lakeview—a community in Chicago. Fast forward to today, and you’ll find they’re the parent company to 12 different bars and restaurants. One of their brands you’re sure to hear about is Federales, an open-air tequila and taco concept designed for great times and memorable experiences in an urban industrial-chic setting. Let’s explore the makings of a brand on the rise.

The Vibe

Federales opened its doors in 2016 in the Fulton Market District, a neighborhood in Chicago known for creative global restaurants and entertainment. The area ranked in the top 20 in Cushman & Wakefield’s “Cool Streets” across the U.S. and Canada in 2019. We’d have to say, there’s no better place for one of the “coolest” restaurant vibes around.  

As the most popular ethnic food type in the U.S., Mexican restaurants represent about 11% of all restaurants in the nation as of December 2020. The top three cities with the most brands in this category include Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. So, what did Federales do to stand out in a possibly saturated market? 

Everything.

First, let’s start with the exhilarating feeling of drinking a shot of tequila from a shot glass made of ice and then throwing it at a bell that hangs over a fire pit. Can you imagine anything better on a Friday night after a long week than “Ringing the Bell”? Apparently, we’re not the only ones who enjoy the thought of enthusiastically drinking tequila shots and then throwing the glass. According to the Chicago Tribune and co-founder Matt Menna, in 2018, just two years after opening, they expected to exceed $10 million in revenue.

Federales also works with local artists to capture the character of the areas they call home. In Chicago, Jason Botkin, renowned street artist and founder of EnMasse, painted the floor-to-ceiling mural that greets guests. The restaurant consists of a large, oversized bar and a fully retractable roof, creating an urban oasis. 

The Menu

The menu centers around creative tacos and authentic drinks. Think ultra-trendy birria tacos made with lamb, spicy chicken, pork belly, grilled shrimp, and beer-battered cod tacos. Our favorite, if just for the name, is the Gringo Taco Supreme, made with seasoned ground beef, iceberg lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and cheddar cheese in a hard-shell tortilla. Someone, apparently, has a good sense of humor. Vegans will also find options, and non-taco lovers can opt for taquitos, smoked brisket nachos and burritos, and chicken enchiladas. 

As far as drinks go, you’ll get to experience some new takes on old classics, like the Spicy Watermelon margarita, Mezcal Old Fashioned, and Jalapeno Gimlet. They also offer some trendier beverages, including Luna Bay Blueberry Hard Kombucha.

National Expansion Plans

As part of their national expansion plans, Federales opened their second location in Denver in 2021. The 8,500-square-foot restaurant also offers a retractable roof over an island bar, keeping the theme of their first location intact. 

Their third location debuted in Dallas’ Deep Ellum in 2022. And, yes, it’s already known for its tacos, tequila, retractable roof, and the mural paying homage to the neighborhood’s art culture. The company is currently scouting other locations, including several in Chicagoland and possible sites in Miami, Tennessee, Austin, and Las Vegas. 

That’s where EMERGING comes in. As a strategic partner, we help restaurants choose the best sites that maximize success while minimizing risk. Our data analysts and engineers crunch the numbers, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of each site, and our real estate team negotiates with developers and landlords to maximize returns effectively. For more information on successful expansion strategies and our many divisions or to schedule a consultation, contact EMERGING

FAQS

When should you expand your restaurant brand?

We recommend taking a solid look at the numbers. If your business is booming, you have reliable funding, and there’s strong market demand, now could be the time. Do you know your VIP customer and the real estate market you’re aiming for? It’s a lot to consider. EMERGING is here to help. 

What are the best cities to open a restaurant in?

At EMERGING, our real estate and data science divisions work together to help our clients create a strategic growth plan and determine the best locations based on low risk and high profits. Of course, every restaurant’s “best location” is very different, dependent on their venue, competition, neighborhood demographics and habits, and much more. That said, some of the popular cities for new restaurants include Austin, Boise, and Charlotte. 

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