Brian Wheeler, founder of Tijuana Flats and owner of Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen, is going back to his Tex-Mex roots with a new endeavor—Big Taco. 

The restaurant is not only a nod to Wheeler’s nickname, the “Big Taco,” but it also symbolizes a partnership with his oldest son, Jake Wheeler, and a passing of the torch. 

Jake Wheeler will oversee Big Taco’s operations as a partner and general manager, while his younger brother Gavin Wheeler will join the team in 2025 when he graduates from Louisiana State University. 

“My boys have grown up in the world of Tijuana Flats and Tibby’s … now it is time for me to step back and let the next generation of Wheelers take the lead. They are excited to continue the family legacy we kicked off in Central Florida in 1995,” Brian Wheeler said in a statement. 

Big Taco’s menu will showcase an array of authentic Tex-Mex classics, from tacos to tostada salad. Specialties include chili-smothered burritos and chimichangas. The first location will be in Casselberry, Florida, and feature a 2,000-square-foot space that seats 65 people and employs up to 40. Hiring will begin in mid-October, with plans to open in late 2023. 

The upcoming concept promises a welcoming atmosphere with “a big attitude,” delivering a trip down memory lane with a vibe that’s “eclectic with the essence of old Las Vegas with a distinct strong personality,” the company said. 

“Today’s Tex-Mex is overengineered,” Jake Wheeler said in a statement. “We understand that many people are craving the simplicity of an ‘uncomplicated taco,’ so now they’ll have it—soon.” 

Brian Wheeler’s story started in 1995 after graduating from the University of Central Florida, when his father loaned him $20,000 to set up the first Tijuana Flats restaurant in nearby Winter Park. In 1999, industry veteran Camp Fitch left retirement to become partner and chairman of the bustling brand.

Now, the chain has grown to over 130 locations in six states, with a franchise AUV of $1.4 million. 

Family involvement has always been a core value to Brian Wheeler, with his dad leaving a 30-year tenure at a Fortune 500 company to become CFO of Tijuana Flats. 

“Starting Tijuana Flats marked the beginning of an amazing journey and having my dad there, sharing his business savvy and support, was priceless,” Brian Wheeler said.

When Brian Wheeler sold Tijuana Flats in 2015 to AUA Private Equity Partners, he focused on Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen, a concept based on expressing personality through food, music, and heritage. The restaurant currently has three locations throughout Florida. 

Fast Casual, Story, Big Taco