Five years after leaving the market, Baja Fresh Mexican Grill plans to open five restaurants in the Valley.
Two restaurants are currently under construction and expected to open later this summer, possibly in August, according to Tim Koch, vice president of restaurant operations for Baja Fresh.
One will be within the shopping center near 16th Street and Camelback Road. The other will be in the Corona del Sol Plaza near Rural and Ray roads.
Another three restaurants are expected to open in 2019, Koch said. Specific locations for the three additional locations were not released, but would likely be in the East Valley, he said.
"How can we bring Baja Fresh back to the Valley?"
That was the question, Kochs said, Scottsdale-based Kahala Brands asked after acquiring the fast-casual Mexican brand in 2016. Kahala Brands is a franchise company for many popular brands including Cold Stone, America's Taco Shop, Pinkberry, Blimpie, and Grabbagreen.
In 2013, all five Baja Fresh locations in the Phoenix area abruptly closed, according to a report from the Phoenix New Times. No official reason for the closure was provided.
A restaurant in Prescott Valley, as well as stores in other states, remained open.
What has changed in the last five years?
"We’re constantly improving and listening to guest feedback," Koch said.
Classic menu items like the Baja burrito or Baja tacos have been improved, he said. They've also added new items to the menu including salads and tostadas.
The look of the restaurants has also changed. They've replaced the black and white checkered design with wood accents and slate-colored flooring.
Baja Fresh opened its first store in 1990.