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Taco John’s already has a cult-like following. Here’s how we’re expanding our customer base for our Mexican franchises.

Taco John’s Mexican franchises have an enthusiastic fan base that has been growing since 1969. They love our salsa, chips and tortillas, and our menu that blends comfort foods with south-of-the-border spices. When you ask them what they love about Taco John’s, the word that comes to mind most often is “quality.”

“It’s bold, it’s made fresh to order,” says Tam Kennedy, who owns Taco John’s units in Minnesota and Iowa. “Our Potato Olés® are what we are known for, and our south-of-the-border spices. Everything is bold, fresh and served with a twist. Our biggest competitor uses a $1 value menu to draw customers in. We don’t have to do that because our food is amazing.”

LTO strategy

Taco John’s does offer some deals to drive customer traffic — we coined the term Taco Tuesday® and made it part of the American lexicon — but we believe that bold flavors and smart menu choices drives both customer traffic and bottom line results for franchisees.

Inside our Mexican restaurant franchise

That’s why, rather than relying on discounting to bring in customers, Taco John’s focuses on limited-time-only menu items and promotions.

“Some companies drive their franchisees crazy by relying on discounts to drive traffic to their stores,” says VP for Franchise Development, Van Ingram . “They’ll discount core menu items, devalue the menu for customers, and eliminate the profit margin in an effort to bring people in. But that doesn’t help a franchisee’s bottom line.”

We offer limited-time-only (LTO) menu items three to four times a year, and the items are developed with input from franchisees who understand the pulse of their customers, from our culinary team that is constantly researching food trends and potential suppliers, and from our operations team that stays focused on making sure new menu items are cost-effective and easy to make without the need for a lot of additional equipment.

$221 Billion is the total US Fast Food Sales in 2016 according to the 216 NPG Group Inc. CREST Report

The entire process is steeped in customer research and franchisee consultation. For instance, we know younger customers like being the first to try new menu items and appreciate bold flavors — both of which make LTO menu items a great way to win new customers and encourage repeat visits. Our LTO calendars are developed two years in advance in order to support research, testing and the development of marketing campaigns.

We are focused on growing sales, growing the number of transactions and boosting unit-level economics. With each marketing effort, we do our best to model: How will it impact the bottom line?

Digital Strategy

With 88% of the population on the internet and 79% using a smartphone, Taco John’s recognizes the need for social media. We recently added Jimmy Orr as the Director of Digital Strategy. Orr worked in the White House for George W. Bush, created the online campaign for Arnold Schwarzenegger, and helped convert the L.A. Times to an online publication. He will help our franchise system capitalize on the digital world.

Franchisee input

The Taco John’s marketing team includes field managers who visit restaurants to evaluate promotions and ensure that franchisees have the tools and support they need. We are constantly recalibrating our systems and improving our targeting based on feedback from franchisees and customers. Our Advertising Production Committee, which is an advisory board elected by franchisees, provides feedback on our television advertising and promotions. The group meets quarterly.

Mexican franchise marketing tools

Taco John’s produces television ads that franchisees can use to drive customer interest in the brand. Franchisees may be required to join an advertising co-op to finance local advertising in certain DMAs.


Taco John’s also has a strong database of customers who sign up for email offers, and we engage with those customers frequently. We have very loyal customers. When you go online, you’ll find people who have written songs about Taco John’s.

The fan base is fanatical due to a strong local marketing program that has been in place since 1969, and which continues to improve as new technologies make local marketing simpler. When you are ready for your grand opening, you will have a lot of support getting your name out in traditional media, as well as through digital channels and public relations.

 Taco John’s uses social media tools to engage its fan base and drive customer frequency. It also maintains a database of social media accounts that have asked, “When is Taco John’s coming here?” We hear that from people who grew up in an area with Taco John’s and have moved to another part of the country.

As our Mexican franchises grow into new markets, the digital voice is often already alive — customers are interested in us, and that provides an avenue for growth. We have an instant following when we launch a new item — it’s not unusual to have 100 conversations start within minutes. It allows us to leverage the relationship we have with some customers and help their friends and followers learn about Taco John’s.

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