Taco John’s

 Taco John

Taco John’s is poised to expand its geographic footprint in the next few years

with the right franchisees alongside it.

By Bianca Herron

Taco John’s International Inc. has been unapologetic about using real ingredients, not taking shortcuts and doing things a little differently since the first taco stand opened 47 years ago.

In 1969, Harold Holmes and James Woodson purchased the franchise rights and named the restaurant after John Turner, who opened the first store in Cheyenne, Wyo. With its bold spices and made to order tacos, it was an instant hit.

“The rest is history,” President Jim Creel says. “Taco John’s restaurants began popping up across the Midwest, evolving to include drive-thrus, interior seating and bold originals like Potato Olés® and Nachos Navidad®. We even coined the original Taco Tuesday® value day, dedicated to big flavor for a small price.”Taco John Fact Box

According to Creel - who joined the company in 2000 and has led the restaurant chain’s technology, supply chain, and financial strategies during his tenure - Taco John’s has always served fast Mexican food in an original way. Some of the company’s best-selling products include Meat & Potato Burritos and Potato Olés®.

“We created one of the first breakfast burritos,” Creel says. “Recently we launched a new breakfast item, the chicken and gravy breakfast burrito. Breakfast is a core part of our business.”

Standing Out

Unlike every other quick-service restaurant (QSR) category, the Mexican QSR category only has one national competitor. It’s Taco John’s history, notes Creel, which makes them unique from their lone competitor. “We offer a legacy brand with nearly 50 years of success in a fast growing category, with available territory, unique menu items and fanatical customers,” he says.

“In addition, new franchisees find that guests instantly connect with Taco John’s attitude and flavor,” Creel continues. “Our flavors are bold, fresh and served with a twist, fusing comfort food with authentic Mexican fare in a unique way.”

All of the company’s efforts are centered around a vision of unit growth and building relevance in order to maintain Taco John’s appeal to key, profitable audiences, especially millennials. “In our brand research, we identified the fact that our long-term core customers tend to have lower incomes, live in rural areas and are older (35+) than average QSR guests,” says Creel. “The brand has sought to gain ground with younger, more affluent customers to increase sales and franchise value. The recent rebranding efforts have shown to be effective in gaining traction with the targeted demographics of new customers.”

Seeing Growth

Despite the current climate of challenging local economic issues, such as low unemployment and lowered energy prices, Taco John’s is poised to add 10 new units by the end of this year, bringing the total number of locations to 390.  “That’s in addition to the 20 other sites expected to open in 2017, which will take us well over 400 units,” Creel says. “The brand has also signed several area development agreements with commitments for over 50 new units to be developed in the coming years. Future development commitments for locations across the U.S. include New York, Tennessee, Nebraska, Minnesota, Colorado and Idaho.”

From a prospect development perspective, Creel added Taco John’s has seen an evolution in the sales process and the way prospective franchisees review a franchise opportunity. 

“Prospects now want complete self-guided due diligence before directly contacting the brand,” he explained. “We have a robust franchise solicitation section on our website. We provide candidates with a significant amount of information so they can review the opportunity on their timeline. Our prospects are more knowledgeable and they have an expectation of transparency. We meet that expectation by providing our Item 19 Financial Performance Review and other detailed cost data right on our site.”

Taco John’s offers extensive support to its franchisees, including meetings with team members who are very experienced in restaurant openings, operations, construction and the Taco John’s approach. “The team includes a coach who is completely dedicated to helping new Taco John’s owners set up their restaurant and quickly navigate our systems and vendor relationships to get the help they need,” Creel explains. “We also provide detailed demographic information to franchisees and traffic studies for locations they submit to us for approval.”

In addition, Taco John’s sees its commitment to quality as the key to growth. “The guest of the future is quickly moving away from low-cost and low-quality fast food,” Creel says. “We’ve been focused on elevating the quality our food beyond our competitors through new innovation and adding fresh, made-to-order items, like street tacos, to our core menu.”


Community Engagement

In 1995, Taco John’s International created TJ® Gives, a program designed to connect contributions to worthy causes around the community and across the country. Since its establishment, the chain’s “hyper-local” tradition of giving has collectively raised millions of dollars for hundreds of different organizations and causes.

“This past year, almost 200 Taco John’s restaurants donated to nearly 65 different causes,” Creel says. “Annually, the brand connects seasonal sales of Nachos Navidad® to fundraising for local charities across the footprint. We believe the owners of local Taco John’s restaurants are in the best position to decide which charities have the greatest impact in their communities. That’s why the brand takes a “hyper-local” approach to philanthropy.”


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