Taco Restaurant Aims to Spread Fun Vibe with the Help of Multi-Unit Franchisees
Chronic Tacos is looking for franchisees that can help the restaurant export its unique California vibe to the rest of the country and beyond.
Started in Newport Beach, headquartered in Aliso Viejo in Orange County and with a brand new 50th franchise opened on the campus of the University of California Riverside, Chronic Tacos is very much a Golden State brand.
Inspired by traditional taqueria style Mexican food and using third-generation recipes for authentic flavor, Chronic Tacos aims to set itself apart in the rapidly expanding fast casual Mexican food space by giving people more authenticity in their meals and more atmosphere in their experience.
“Our vibe is very California inspired,” CEO Michael Mohammed explained during a recent interview. “We really incorporate music and art to convey a real laid back atmosphere. It’s fun and playful, but has a bit of an edge to it.”
That commitment to keeping a fun atmosphere means most of Chronic Tacos’ franchisees have Los Angeles graffiti artist Tewsr fly out to custom paint their locations with the franchise’s signature Day of the Dead graffiti artwork.
Not only does this keep the brand consistent, it means every location gets a unique mural from Tewsr, who usually works two or three days on the murals for the franchise.
In the Beginning
Founder Randy Wyner and his friend Dan Biello opened the first location in 2002 in Newport Beach, followed by the first franchise location in 2006 in San Clemente.
Wyner, who grew up on taqueria style Mexican food, couldn’t find that in Newport Beach. He and Biello decided to open a taqueria restaurant, but give it more of a fun vibe than is typical in the restaurant industry.
Aside from the graffiti artwork, Wyner and Biello put a focus on music and lots of interaction with guests.
Mohammed got involved when the franchise expanded into Canada in 2010. He and his brothers helped finance the franchisee in Vancouver. Through that, he met Wyner and the two had several meetings about how to grow the brand.
Eventually, Wyner invited Mohammed and his brothers to become partners in the company and they purchased a controlling stake in Chronic Tacos in 2012. All brothers continue to remain actively involved with the business today.
While the core of the business was really strong, the CEO said, the strategy to grow long-term wasn’t there. Mohammed brought to the brand that strategy and mindset for rapid expansion.
“When we were at 25 restaurants, we were acting like we were at 100 and now that we’re at 50, we’re going to start acting like we’re at 200 to make sure we provide all the tools and platforms we need to make our franchisees successful,” he outlined. “We’re thinking about this long-term. If we want to get to 500 restaurants, we have to act like we have 500 restaurants. You can’t wait to get to 500 restaurants before you act that way.”
When they were getting started, the company looked for people with restaurant experience, but their franchisee profile has evolved. Now, they’re looking more for multi-unit operators who can run a group of restaurants.
“Our main criteria isn’t so much restaurant experience, it’s operational experience and people who get the brand and get our vibe because that is so important to us when we’re expanding to other markets,” Mohammed explained. “We want people to take that California vibe — what we call the Taco Life — to their market and really understand our brand and live that lifestyle.”
To help franchisees really capture the Chronic Tacos ethos, the brand stays hands on with their franchisees from the start. They help new owners find locations and the in-house design team designs their restaurants. The franchise stays actively involved in the design of the restaurant and the build out and once the build out has taken place, new franchisees’ key people come and train in the Chronic Tacos corporate stores for four weeks.
“That’s where they learn all the ins and outs of the franchise, our recipes, running a restaurant, all the daily tasks involved with working with their employees,” Mohammed explained.
During training, they maintain a checklist to make sure all employees have been trained on all the necessary skills for running a Chronic Tacos outlet.
The new franchisees’ management teams then go back to their locations and hire their employees and as the new franchise locations approach their opening, Chronic Tacos will send two trainers out to those locations and work at the restaurants for three weeks as part of their opening crews to make sure everyone is trained sufficiently.
Post opening, the company will supply extra training if necessary and also provide helpful evaluation. Additional support includes working with the brand’s public relations agency to generate local media interest around milestones and Grand Openings.
Mohammed said there is plenty of room to grow, right across the continent.
Rather than thinking too much about the places they want to expand into, the company concentrates more on the type of person they’re signing because they feel they would be a good fit anywhere and they feel like they could accommodate most regions they’re going into.
Chronic Tacos offers their Veteran Franchisee Program for active military and veterans looking for entrepreneurial opportunities. They have several veteran operators currently in the Franchise System.
While the lion’s share of their locations are in California, they also have a presence in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, North Carolina, Utah, Washington and British Columbia.
The brand recently signed a Master Franchise agreement with partners in Japan and will open their first location in Tokyo early 2018.
In addition to traditional locations, Chronic Tacos has non-traditional franchise opportunities available in food courts and stadiums, such as: T-Mobile Arena, StubHub Center, Angel Stadium, and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The brand has also just launched a mobile app that gives customers access to its loyalty program and allows them to order and pay online.
For any franchisee looking to open multiple units of a fun franchise and help export some laid back California cool, Chronic Tacos offers the perfect opportunity.