Inside the prototype, Del Taco spent a lot of time ensuring operators were given a “production engine” capable of delivering a better guest experience. Across the selection of prototypes, the size of the kitchen remains constant, and the brand is testing multiple pieces of equipment, such as a new oven to improve cooking efficiency, a dishwashing method that reduces human input, and a kitchen display system to elevate order accuracy. The prototype’s digital menu boards also improve precision, in addition to helping consumers better understand the brand in new markets.
Fresh Flex was unveiled in January 2021, and served as a growth catalyst during the proceeding months. Del Taco signed nine franchise development agreements for 68 restaurants in 10 states last year, which will start to come online in 2022 and 2023. That includes Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia, and infill of California and Nevada.
A majority of development this year will showcase the new design. Then in 2023, the goal is to reach 5 percent system growth (roughly 30 to 35 stores). That entire class will be the Fresh Flex prototype.
As Del Taco builds new stores with the latest enhancements, existing restaurants are being remodeled to fit the new aesthetic. Roughly 10 to 12 company-run stores in Southern California have the Fresh Flex design, and more are coming not only to Los Angeles, but also Las Vegas.
In the older stores, it will be an intensive remodel, Little says, because of changes to the exterior and front of house, deferred maintenance, and kitchen work. For newer buildings, it’ll be a “cosmetic re-skin,” with not too much being done to the kitchen.
The ground-up prototype in Orlando is owned by Del Taco. As for the franchise community, an operator in New Mexico plans on being the first franchisee to open a drive-thru only version of the new design later in 2022.
“A lot of interest and excitement in our franchisees community, which has been fantastic to see,” Little says.