In 1995, a new restaurant concept debuted in Bethesda, Maryland, offering a new take on your typical Mexican fare. Taking a cue (and name) from the West Coast, California Tortilla offered burritos, quesadillas, salads, and more made fast and fresh before it was popular to do so. This week, California Tortilla celebrates 20 successful years of reimagining Mexican that have seen the chain expand up and down the East Coast and all the way to the Middle East. And they did so by designing a fast casual concept meticulously engineered for growth and never compromising on quality.
Business partners Bob Phillips and Keith Goldman envisioned a unique yet affordable dining experience, delivering a higher quality product at a price point anyone could afford. At the center of the California Tortilla menu are its Chef-Inspired burritos that combine flavors in fresh, yet familiar ways using locally sourced, never-frozen ingredients made in small batches throughout the day. Rounding out its offerings is an array of Mexican-inspired items including fajitas, fresh salads, quesadillas, tacos, and nachos, plus limited-time offerings like Street Tacos and the Bangkok Shrimp Bowl, which are eagerly awaited by customers.
With the first four restaurants, Phillips and Goldman streamlined operations, keeping costs low without sacrificing quality—an ideal model for franchising. Today, there are almost 50 locations, with 20 more to come in the next two years. Future growth areas include New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.
“I’ve been on all sides of the restaurant business, and as a franchisee, saw firsthand what happens when you skimp on ingredients or put customers second,” Phillips says. “At California Tortilla, we set out to create food you can be proud to serve, keeping customers front and center in every decision we make. The result was a concept perfectly suited for franchising—every last detail is deliberate and created to help franchisees succeed. We look forward to continued growth and success in the years to come.”
California Tortilla will celebrate its 20th “Annibirthery” from August 3 through August 7 with a week of promos, including double points day, a scratch-and-win card with prizes like free dessert and free burritos, throwback pricing, and free cupcakes.