“This is an internal franchising system,” Hart said. “[These partners] speak volumes, in my opinion, to the belief and the passion around what we’re doing.”
Another key piece of the growth puzzle? A new Kitchen 2.0 design. While Torchy’s has long been associated with tacos sporting unique combinations of high-quality ingredients—like the Trailer Park, with fried chicken, green chiles, lettuce, pico de gallo, cheddar jack cheese, and poblano sauce all stuffed into a tortilla—back-of-house updates are increasing quality even further, with the goal of team members making better tacos more quickly as the brand begins rapid growth.
The kitchen design focuses on allowing space for handmaking fresh tortillas in-store (a process that was tested in 2019 and will roll out system-wide in 2020) and cooking all meats just before serving rather than reheating. The updates will also allow average ticket times to drop from 12-15 minutes to 7-9 minutes, reducing throughput for in-store customers as well as carryout and delivery times and making Torchy’s a quick choice that customers can fit into their schedules multiple times a week.
“We have long lines of people at lunch and dinner. And when you have 12-to 15-minute ticket times, it inhibits frequency … and you’re not going to go as much as you want to as a result of those lines. Just because our guests love us today that won’t happen tomorrow as competitors come to the marketplace,” Hart said.
Reduction is particularly crucial as Torchy’s off-premises orders continue to take off. Right now, off-premises sales hover around 35 percent, and the brand expects this to rise to more than 50 percent in the next five years.
And, of course, as with most concepts looking to grow today, tech is also top-of-mind for Torchy’s moving forward. While Hart did not give any specifics on what types of technology the chain is looking to explore, he did say that the brand had much to do when it comes to technology, and that the ultimate goal was a “total frictionless experience” for guests.
“We are not a technology company—we are not mistaken, we are not confused,” Hart said. “We use technology to enable our future and we believe that, long-term, it’s about individualized, personalized engagement with your guest to drive business.”