'Pizza for Pesos' Restaurant Chain Sales Soar

Who says pesos don't pay?

Pizza Patron, the Dallas-based restaurant chain that began accepting Mexican pesos at U.S. locations earlier this year, has said that sales rose 38.4 percent in the first quarter.

The much-maligned pizza-maker attributed the gains to 'strategic initiatives,' and connected the improvement to the 'pizza for pesos' program.

“Perhaps our first quarter store sales are a vindication of sorts for occupying a unique position in the marketplace and not yielding to the pressure from the opposition” said Andrew Gamm, director of Brand Development, in a press release.

After the chain implemented the policy, outcry against the initiative was swift and widespread. The company has said that it received threats and hate mail.

While praising the pesos plan as an innovative way to appeal to Hispanics, a partner in the nation's largest Hispanic public relations firm said a backlash was inevitable.

"Right now there's a lot of anti-immigrant rhetoric going around that could make them a lightning rod," said Patricia Perez, a partner at Valencia, Perez & Echeveste in Los Angeles.

The chain has unapologetically acknowledged that appealing to Hispanic customers is a key thrust of their business. "The Pizza for Pesos initiative is just one example of the things that we have done to better serve our core Hispanic customer,” said Antonio Swad, founder of Pizza Patrón. “We will continue to work hard to out-position our competitors when it comes to selling pizza, and we are willing to walk that extra mile at the community level where many are not."

Pizza Patron is not the first or only U.S. company to accept pesos or even the Canadian dollar at U.S. locations. Retail giant Wal-Mart (WMT) allows customers to pay with pesos at some stores along the southern border.

And some U.S. banks, including Bank of America (BAC), have recently taken fire for credit card programs that critics say seek to profit from illegal immigrants.

The Associated Press and Alexander B. Duncan contributed to this report.