Tortilla is looking to “dip its toes into potential European opportunities next year”, chief executive Richard Morris has said.

Speaking at the recent Big Hospitality Expo, organised by MCA’s publisher William Reed, Morris said that in terms of potential openings on the continent, as yet there was “nothing definite, but we know there is a big prize out there in Europe”.

In terms of openings in the UK, he said Tortilla had “a phenomenal pipeline of sites this year and coming up next year”.

While the business is still “very bullish” about London, many of its new sites are opening outside the capital, with locations in Coventry, Canterbury and Durham soon to launch.

“The one shining light in this time of disaster is that the property market is definitely more favourable now,” he said in the Q&A hosted by MCA’s deputy editor Georgi Gyton.

“We are getting help from landlords now and rent-free periods. And we are now able to access sites that we most probably wouldn’t have been access two or three years ago because the rents were ridiculous.”

Despite all the headaches the hospitality sector has faced over the past three years, Morris said the fast-casual Mexican restaurant business had come out of it quite well, with a strong balance sheet, and wanted to maximise these rare property opportunities, “because eventually things will go back to where they were”.

Commenting on the acquisition of Chilango, he said that it was a brand Tortilla liked, despite being a competitor, “so the best way to get rid of them was to buy them”.

Chilango had a good selection of sites in London, which Morris described as “still an incredible vibrant and exciting place for us to be in”, so it ticked the boxes in terms of location strategy.

Although the majority of the sites have now been converted to Tortilla branded restaurants, the business has kept a couple, with those sites being used for the development of different food ideas.

Tortilla has also added several Chilango dishes to the menu at its cloud kitchens – dishes that command a slightly higher price.

“We see the brands working together, but whether we continue to open other Chilango venues, we don’t know yet.” But he said the addition of Chilango’s products to its cloud-kitchen menus meant that it is believed there is potentially to expand its cloud kitchen network further.

Morris said the cost-of-living crisis had yet to have a discernible impact on sales, but that the business was working hard to mitigate cost pressures, working with suppliers on different ingredients that it could use, for example.

“We are very hesitant to put our prices up, but we have done.” That said, he said he believed that in terms of the overall eating and drinking out market, Tortilla was still a relatively affordable option, compared to dining out and having a sit-down meal, therefore he feels the business may benefit from consumers who trade down from the more full-service experience.

Morris was speaking at The Big Hospitality Expo, held at Olympia London, last month alongside the Low2NoBev Show. Incorporating The Restaurant Show with the Catering Equipment Expo, the three-day exhibition showcased some of the industry’s most innovative suppliers and service providers to the sector.

While The Stage and The Workshop provided a packed schedule of panel discussions and presentations form key industry figures, covering trends, data and insight impacting the hospitality sector.

Visitors to the show included senior decision makers from Burger King, Pret A Manger, Wagamama, Gail’s, Mitchells & Butlers, Nando’s, Five Guys, Stonegate Pub Company, Gaucho, Fuller’s, Prezzo, Tortilla, Loungers, Dishoom, Costa Coffee, BrewDog, Chipotle and Honest Burger.