“The good news is that this is no flash in the pan success story,” says Brett Miller, Taco John’s vice president of development, design and construction. “We’ve been around since 1969, and we are still growing.” The West-Mex chain has more than 400 stores in 25 states.
To find the best candidates for growing the business, Taco John’s evaluates franchisees against profiles of its most successful operators.
“We identified four qualities our successful franchisees have. Then we measure potential franchisees against that profile,” Miller says. Those qualities are:
How driven are they to accomplish goals?
How much of an influence do they have with their peers?
How well do they associate with other people?
How important to them is contributing to the effort?
“The most successful franchisees have all four qualities. If someone is lacking somewhere, it’s not that they cannot be a franchisee with Taco John’s, but we know where they may require help to be the best.”
Taco John’s profiles real estate, as well. “We focus on getting the right franchisee and helping them find the right site. Based on years of experience, we have developed a profile of the most successful locations. We plug in an address, and the computer model tells us how well a site measures up,” Miller says.
Taco John’s knows the best franchisees may not already have restaurant experience—they can come from any background; they just need to look like a match with the profile of a successful Taco John’s owner. “Our training system brings them up to speed,” Miller says. “New owners spend four weeks in our offices and our company stores learning how to run the business. They attend other Taco John’s openings, and then we are on-site with them for their own openings.”
Once a franchise store is open, Taco John’s franchise business consultants visit stores regularly to review profit and loss statements, help with planning, and assist local marketing. Their goal: to help franchisees be as profitable as possible.
Taco John’s values the consultant/franchisee relationship and keeps consultants’ territories relatively small. “We give them about 35 to 40 restaurants each, which means they interact with the franchisees multiple times every quarter,” Miller says.
Taco John’s invites feedback from its franchisees, both through interactions with the consultants and through the Taco John’s franchisee association. Franchisees have opportunities to bring ideas up to the highest levels in the company.
Taco John’s plans its growth in states contiguous to current markets, mostly to keep distribution of its proprietary products working efficiently. “The franchisees get all of their product from one truck we coordinate,” Miller says.
Success still means combining the best of the old, which is the power of the brand, with these new approaches and new menu items like the recently added and very popular TJ Baja Boneless Wings.
Taco John’s is updating with a new building design, which makes operations even more efficient for owners. “The design speaks to our brand, but allows our franchisees flexibility on the interior to make the store reflect their communities,” Miller says. Owners can customize with local sports photos and memorabilia or images of the community itself.
“Our owners are the local face of the business. Many own just one or two stores, some might own dozens, but it all starts with being across the counter from the customer,” Miller says.
As the company grows and economic challenges ease, the future looks good for Taco John’s. “We may be approaching that sweet spot,” Miller says, “where financing gets easier and real estate is still very affordable. Then it’s up to us to find the right match between the person, the place and the opportunity.”
For more information about franchising opportunities with Taco John’s, visit www.tacojohnsfranchise.com.