Company Overview - Taco John's
Taco John’s was originally founded in 1968 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The brand concentrated on franchising and delivering quality food in large portions in a friendly and attractive setting to sustain its growth. The company reported approximately $367 million in sales in 2017.
History of Taco John’s
- Taco John’s was founded by John Turner and his wife in 1968. It was first known as “Taco House” and located in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It became a big hit as the restaurant efficiently offered good-tasting Mexican food.
- Two Cheyenne businessmen by the names of Harold Holmes and Jim Woodson bought franchise rights to the “Taco House” in 1969. They then changed the name to “Taco John’s,” and started franchising in small towns such as Rapid City, South Dakota; Scottsbluff, Nebraska; and Torrington, Wyoming.
- The businessmen found that the recipe and seasonings used by Turner were crucial for the company’s success. Because of this, it was tightly guarded and remained a trade secret of the company between the years of the 1980s and 1990s.
- In 1978, Taco John’s first opened its drive-up window and indoor seating store in Des Moines, Iowa. This store design soon became Taco John’s default model for the next generation of units.
- In 1989, Taco John’s had about 400 units and annual sales of about $150 million.
- The company then adopted the company slogan of “A Whole Lot of Mexican,” which was chosen by the company’s president and CEO, Paul Fishkeller, in 1997.
- In 2003, the company started to adopt new and more contemporary designs and started to expand into major urban areas.
Growth of Taco John’s
- Taco John’s experienced most of its growth during the 1970s and 1980s. This was when the company concentrated on franchising the brand.
- During the 1970s and 1980s, many customers started to look for Taco John’s nearer to their location. These customers then became franchisees and started to build Taco John’s in their hometowns. Taco John’s outlets then started to grow in various areas such as the upper Midwest--South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Wyoming.
- The company got most of its revenue from the franchisees. Franchisees had to pay the company a franchise fee, alongside royalties from the sales of its stores. While the company would ship them a prefabricated 12-by-30 foot taco stand from its headquarters in Wyoming.
- The company also trained employees for different franchises. Taco John’s was then thought to be a good investment, and with this, came a steady supply of franchise candidates.
- In 1978, the company started to build larger structures with seating and stopped sending out pre-built units. This was started by Bill Bryne and Dean Neese, who invested $39,500 to open a Taco John’s franchise in Des Moine, Iowa. This was the first penetration of the brand into a larger urban area.
- At the time, Bryne and Neese opened the company’s first drive-up window and indoor seating store, and this eventually replaced the pre-built units and became the default model for the next generation of Taco John’s stores.
- By the end of the 1980s, Bryne and Neese owned about ten Taco John’s outlets in Des Moines, and these outlets would consume at least ten tons of beef and two tons of cheese each month.
- Another pair that led the franchise of Taco John’s was the husband-and-wife team of Charles and DeMaris Mathison. The Mathisons bought a Taco John’s franchise in 1976, which was located in Marshalltown, Iowa.
- They considered the growth of their franchise to be hard. However, as time passed by, the Mathison’s focused on good food and quality service.
- Eventually, the duo was able to gain a regular clientele from various socioeconomic groups. In 1985, they moved their store in a larger space, which they, later on, added an atrium that would seat 114 customers in 1988.
- The Marshalltown outlet was the first unit to generate $1 million worth of receipts in a single year.
- Overall, by the end of the 1980s, Taco John’s had 400 units in the upper Midwest and West. Furthermore, the combined sales of the units were estimated to have reached $150 million.
- The company was able to sustain its growth in the 1980s, even if Taco Bell, the Mexican-fast food behemoth, was right in their doorstep. Taco John’s realized that they cannot fight Taco Bell when it comes to price, so the company decided to stick with what they excelled in, and that is large portions of high-quality food, and an attractive and friendly setting.
- The company then introduced its new tagline, “More than you imagined,” in the fall of 1991. Taco John’s then gained its first-ever “Fair Franchising Seal of Approval” in 1994, which boosted the company’s growth.
- During the same year, the company started to operate 430 units in 30 states. Roelof, a restaurant industry veteran, and CEO of the company at the time, also introduced new items into the menu, including “Heart Smart” items, which used low-fat ingredients. The company also moved to new distribution channels such as “Mexpress” and small food court units.
- Taco John’s also updated its image by replacing its logo and mascot, Juan, a cartoon-like Mexican figure who sported a giant hat.
The late 1990s to 2000s
- Paul Fishkeller, the company’s CEO and president in 1997, made new changes to the company. He streamlined the taste of specific items on the menu across the restaurant chain. He did this by using a single supplier for specific ingredients, such as taco meat, cheese, and sauce. He also introduced the company’s new slogan, “A Whole Lot of Mexican.”
- The company also increased its traditional change of units from 1,700 square feet to 1,900 square feet, which included 60 seats and two drive-through lanes.
- Although the company did not grow in outlets during this change, which fell from 440 in the late 1990s to 400 outlets in early 2004, the company did grow in sales, reaching $200 million in 2003.
The 2000s and Today
- Taco John’s started to prepare its expansion to urban areas (such as Denver and Kansas City) by unveiling a new and more contemporary store design in 2003. Furthermore, it expanded to about 25 more units in 2004.
- In 2006, the chain underwent a full-exterior remodeling of its 390 out of 405 restaurants. This is to keep in line with the company’s strategy to always develop and modernize its attractive and friendly setting.
- By 2013, Technomic reported that the company had reached $330 million in sales.
- In 2014, the company started its rebranding campaign with a new tagline of “Unwrap the Original.” The strategy of the company at the time was to push the company’s nostalgic offerings of Potato Oles in various advertisement mediums such as TV ads, social media, and digital marketing.
- In 2017, it opened 116 new commitments, and the brand opened ten new locations, which included a mall unit, other freestanding locations, and convenience stores co-developments. Additionally, the brand opened its first airport location at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Its sales reached $367 million.
- Recently, in 2019, Taco John’s decided to penetrate the food truck market by releasing its first food truck to celebrate the brand’s 50th anniversary.
Taco John’s Locations
- Taco John’s is found in many locations. The official website of the company listed Arkansas (two locations), Colorado (16), Idaho (5), Illinois (11), Indiana (3), Iowa (61), Kansas (17), Kentucky (11), Michigan (1), Minnesota (62), Missouri (11), Montana (22), Nebraska (41), Nevada (1), New York (2), North Dakota (23), Ohio (2), South Dakota (36), Tennessee (3), Washington (4), Wisconsin (31), and Wyoming (25) to be all its stores in the US.
- As stated by the company’s about us page, contact us page, and other sources, the headquarters of the brand is located at 808 W. 20th Street, Cheyenne, Wyoming.
- The brand did not mention any stores outside the US. Furthermore, various sources did not indicate any other locations outside the US.
- Technomic reported that Taco John’s reached $330 million in sales in 2013.
- Franchise Chatter reported that the company gained a 9.6% growth in same-store sales in April 2015, which is higher when compared to the QSR industry’s 1.9% change. In May of the same year, the company grew by 7.3% compared to the QSR industry’s 1.1%.
- Restaurant Business Online reported that Taco John’s reached $367 million in sales in 2017, with a 1.2% year-over-year sales change. Furthermore, it has 392 units in the US, with a 0.3% year-over-year unit change.
- As per their LinkedIn account, the company has 1,001 to 5,000 employees.
- As per Crunchbase and Zoom Info, the company has $21.7 million in annual revenue.