Growth | September 2013 | By Mary Avant

Sweet 16

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Taco Cabana is celebrating 35 years of success in the fast casual Mexican arena.
Taco Cabana celebrates year No. 35. Taco Cabana
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30 Years

La Madeleine

A Taste of Home

When French chef Patrick Leon Esquerré brought his love of the French countryside and fresh-baked baguettes to Dallas 30 years ago, he likely had little idea that his concept would grow to more than 60 locations across the South and in Washington, D.C.

In celebration of its 30th anniversary, La Madeleine sent one lucky guest and a friend back to the homeland with its “Recipe to Paris” contest, which asked fans to create an inspiring original recipe based around the brand’s popular Tomato Basil soup.

The concept also treated guests to free mini desserts on March 2; debuted a dinner menu in the nation’s capital; and whipped up new summer selections, including the Chopped Salmon Nicoise Salad, Grape & Pecan Chicken Salade Croissant, Strawberry Cream Puff, and Mango Breeze Iced Tea.

30 Years

Bruegger’s Bagels

A Lasting Tradition

New York bagels by way of Vermont was the idea behind Bruegger’s Bagels, and it hasn’t veered far from this vision over its history. “We still rely on the same recipe for our bagels that we have for 30 years, and it’s a very simple recipe that has just five core ingredients,” says Judy Kadylak, director of marketing for Bruegger’s. “That simplicity from 30 years ago, we still incorporate it now, which is something that I think is unique to a brand that’s this old.”

Kadylak says Bruegger’s continues to follow the original bagel-making process, which involves baking small batches of kettle-boiled, preservative-free bagels in a stone hearth oven throughout the day to ensure freshness for every guest. “It’s something that’s part of the core and the pride of who we are, so we’ve really held to that tradition,” she says.

It’s this emphasis on tradition, Kadylak says, that fans hold dear, due largely to their own childhood memories of eating Bruegger’s Bagels with their family.

“It’s that simple pleasure that you bite into a bagel and it takes you back to something you remember,” she says. “And the fact that it is still the same, when some of the other things have changed and evolved, there’s something comforting about that to people.”

Bruegger’s has given fans something in addition to memories for its 30th anniversary: free bagels. It offered a complimentary bagel and cream cheese on February 7, as well as 30 Bagel Box Parties to guests throughout April. In conjunction with the Children’s Miracle Network, the brand also gave away three free bagels to guests in April in exchange for a donation to the charity.

35 Years

Ben & Jerry’s

Silly, Yet Serious

When two childhood pals combined their passion for ice cream in 1978, the magic that is Ben & Jerry’s was born. It didn’t take long to establish some of the brand’s biggest and longest-lasting traditions: The first Free Cone Day—now an annual tradition—came in 1979, and Ben & Jerry’s found its way onto frozen-treat aisles in grocery stores in 1980.

Since its early days, the brand has been famous for quirky flavor combinations and product names—Wavy Gravy, anyone?—but it’s also created a reputation as an influential social activist, fighting for everything from the environment to small farmers while protesting oil drilling and encouraging guests to vote.

This year, the brand handed out free cones in early April, resurrected the fan-favorite White Russian flavor, and kicked off a “City Churned” campaign to crowdsource locally inspired flavors in cities like New York and Portland—all in the name of 35 years.

35 Years

Taco Cabana

Fast Casual, Part II

Authentic Mexican cuisine in a fast-casual setting has been at the heart of Taco Cabana since the days when founder Felix Stehling launched the taco and enchilada concept in San Antonio. In fact, chief operating officer Todd Coerver ventures to say that Taco Cabana was one of the pioneer fast-casual chains—before the term fast casual was even invented.

“The food was fast, it was inexpensive, but at the same time you had this patio vibe, they had a liquor license serving fresh-made margaritas, and to this day we have a beer and liquor license for all of our locations,” he says.

Unfortunately, the brand lost its focus along the way, slipping back into a quick-service mindset in terms of pricing, heavy discounting, and a focus on a speedy drive-thru operation. Now, however, the time has come to restore its fast-casual identity, Coerver says.

“We’re talking about the made-from-scratch authentic Mexican food that’s coming out of that kitchen, and then we’re marrying it up with a more contemporary Mexican identity,” he says.

Taco Cabana is in the process of a system-wide remodel that’s slated to come to a close by the middle of next year. In celebration of its anniversary, the brand is also restoring unit No. 1 to its original design. The completed project will be unveiled at a special ceremony this month, while its first scratch-off contest—modeled after the Mexican lotteria—will give guests the chance to win free food, tablets, $100,000 in cash, Mexican getaways, and more through the end of the year.

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