What Is Taco John’s?

Taco John’s fast-casual quality in a drive-thru format makes Mexican franchise stand out

Taco John’s is a Mexican franchise that is one of the largest quick service Mexican franchises in the United States, having won a cult-like following thanks to its bold flavors, fresh ingredients and commitment to quality. We coined the term Taco Tuesday® and have been a cultural phenomenon for decades. Our first restaurant opened in 1969 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and we are growing nationwide — particularly in areas east of the Mississippi where the fast-growing Mexican QSR category currently offers only one national competitor and there is a demand for alternatives.

Over 60 percent of Taco John’s food goes out the drive-thru window. Since more than half of our customers don’t step inside the restaurant, this allows franchisees to build smaller restaurants, which reduces land lease or acquisition costs, and construction costs without impacting sales. Because we diversify our food offering over three dayparts, our business is easier to manage than “lunch dominant” or “dinner dominant” brands. We were the first Mexican QSR to offer breakfast burritos, and our breakfast daypart has grown steadily for several years.

As Taco John’s President Jim Creel told Franchising Today magazine, “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.”

Our menu is bold and robust. We have a unique flavor profile that comes from our own secret mix of spices, and our brand has been built around distinctive menu items such as Potato Olés®, meat and potato burritos, handmade chips, fresh produce and quality tortillas.

Taco John’s has been unapologetic about using real ingredients, about not taking shortcuts and about doing things a little differently. We are privately owned, and led by a management team with deep operational experience.

Taco John's T-16 stand-alone store with two wrapped vehicles out front at night.

“Taco John’s has always stood for quality, and when you look at the Millennial group that all QSRs are trying to capture, they value quality, freshness and bold flavors,” says, Van Ingram, VP for Franchise Development. “Some fast food giants are suffering because they forgot about quality in their efforts to drive down food prices. That’s not something we will ever do. Quality is our business. Customers seek it out.”

“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 of our food beyond our competitors through new innovation and adding fresh, made-to-order items, like street tacos, to our core menu.”

Why now is a great time to open a Taco John’s Mexican franchise?

Taco John’s is a proven concept that has grown to almost 400 locations since 1969 — and its growth is accelerating. Our commitment to quality, freshness and bold flavors is a perfect match for what diners are looking for today, which is one reason our customer following is so strong.

Taco John's grand opening at our Mexican franchise

For more than four decades, we have competed head-to-head against the nation’s largest Mexican QSR restaurant chain, and we know how to carve out our own niche in the marketplace and win loyal, high-frequency customers and convert them to brand champions. There is a huge opportunity for growth in the Mexican QSR segment. While other food segments — burgers, sandwiches, pizza — feature multiple nationwide competitors, that’s not yet the case among Mexican fast food franchises. There’s only one nationwide player — and there is room for a higher-quality alternative for customers.

Taco John’s is squarely positioned to occupy the second player position, and we are looking for multi-unit franchisees who want a new business to grow. According to the 2016 NPD Group Inc. CREST Report, “Classic QSR staples posted the biggest declines: burgers, french fries, cold cut combos and chicken sandwiches.” CHD Expert reports that Mexican menu type represents 9% of the total restaurant landscape.

Tom Clarke, who owns a Taco John’s in Long Island, New York, says customers have flocked to the restaurant. As a sophisticated multi-brand franchisee of other systems, Clarke saw quick service Mexican as a rapidly growing yet underserved market.

“I’ve been amazed at how often people in New York line up for Mexican. The public opened up to a whole new profile of food. Millennials want good-tasting variety in their food; soda and fries alone don’t cut it anymore. Taco John’s gives me the ability to expand and sell the flavor profiles my customers want.”

Where is Taco John’s headed?

Targeted States  
ArkansasMinnesotaSouth Carolina
ColoradoMissouriSouth Dakota
IdahoNew JerseyVirginia
IllinoisNew YorkWashington
IndianaNorth CarolinaWest Virginia
IowaNorth DakotaWisconsin
Primary Market Areas
Colorado (Denver, Colorado Springs)
Idaho (Boise)
Kentucky (Louisville)
Michigan (Detroit, Grand Rapids)
Minnesota (Minneapolis)
Missouri (Kansas City, St. Louis)
Ohio (Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton, Cleveland)
Tennessee (Knoxville, Memphis, Jackson, Tri-Cities)

Taco John’s is ready to burst out of our stronghold in the Mountain West and Midwest. Entire markets are open, particularly east of the Mississippi, and the leadership team we have in place is adept at supporting fast-growing operators.

“Everywhere we have fought this fight, we have won the fight,” Ingram says. “We didn’t just create a footprint, we created a footprint with a cult-like following. We are looking for folks to come in, invest, to be a part of it and grow with us.”

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