Del Taco has been in business since 1964, and like most brands that have stood the test of time, its success is owed both to a simple formula and the ability to adapt to market forces. Del Taco’s simple formula is that it serves really good, fresh food at a great price. Its ability to innovate is exhibited by a digital app launched a year ago in an effort to be at the forefront of collecting customer data and using it to influence suggestive selling and loyalty programs.
The app was a hit with customers, passing a million downloads in its first year and becoming a top-100 app in the food and beverage category on the iTunes app store. The venture was a signal to franchisees that the brand is investing in its future success, and it was also a step toward growing nationwide. Plus, during stay-at-home orders that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, the app gave consumers exclusive digital offers and shifted them to contactless ordering.
“As we move forward, we’re looking for experienced multi-unit franchise groups who have a demonstrated expertise in both operations and development and are willing to partner with us to take on the challenge of growing the brand in new territories that they are familiar with,” says Jamie Mills, franchise sales manager at Del Taco. “We have so much opportunity to grow this brand in different markets—we know the consumer demand is there, and with greater access to real estate and labor, we’re continuing to seek out and attract motivated operating partners.”
Del Taco checked in at just under 600 units across 15 states when the calendar turned to 2020, while its $1.55 million average unit volume ranks it 38th overall in QSR magazine’s top 50 quick-service brands. The brand is focused on growing in the Southeast and has established a strong foothold in the Atlanta market that now serves as a home base of sorts for a corporate training and operations teams that will assist franchise growth throughout those markets.
That growth and the brand’s future potential is owed to Del Taco’s unique space in the fast-casual landscape, Mills says. Each store has a working kitchen where team members prepare fresh, made-to-order food by, among other things, cooking beans from scratch, hand-grating cheese, and slicing avocados daily.
“We always say that we are quick-service plus, because our food is fresh in a way that you won’t find at other quick-service operations, but we also have a great price point,” Mills says. “We have higher quality, fresher products but still deliver on attributes like speed of service, convenience, and price that allow us to outshine other quick-service brands.”
The Del Taco menu is varied compared to competitors, with unique things like Beyond Meat Tacos®, Double Del Cheeseburgers or our fan favorite french fries to accompany its traditional Mexican fare of tacos, burritos, and nachos. The goal is to please an entire van full of patrons at the drive-thru window, Mills says. The company is familiar with challenges that franchisees face being that over half of current Del Taco stores are owned by the corporation. That means decisions regarding things like labor, advertising, and investing in modern kitchen equipment are made with a working knowledge of the obstacles and opportunities that the average operator faces each day.
“I think that’s something that really separates us—we get what operators are going through because we’re essentially just that—operators,” Mills says. “That makes us really supportive corporate partners, and we’re always there to help problem solve and innovate, with the ultimate goal to drive profitability.”
To learn more about how you can be part of growing the Del Taco brand, check out its franchise's website.
This story is from the pages of the 2020 edition of Restaurant Franchising.