An investor in several industries, Mark Miller finds quick-service success with this chain.

Ten years ago, Mark Miller was looking for his next opportunity. He was already an investor and partner in a bank and the owner of grocery, manufacturing, and real estate businesses, but Miller always believed there was a niche for him in the quick-service restaurant industry, too. About 12 years ago, he researched franchises and landed on Del Taco for his only fast-food investment.

“I studied the brand from a menu and pricing perspective,” Miller says. “I came to have a lot of respect for Del Taco and fell in love with it and what it stands for: delivering high-quality value to busy consumers. Unlike other concepts, it’s not just a burger and fries; it’s a better-for you alternative.”

[float_image image=”” width=”30″ link=”” caption=”Mark Miller currently operates 15 Del Taco units with at least three more slated to open by the end of the year.
” alt=”Mark Miller” align=”left” /]

Initially, Miller was able to buy two stores, but his quick-service restaurant business has grown since then. He bought additional Del Taco franchises during the economic downturn and built more stores of his own. Today, Miller operates 15 Del Taco units, with at least three more slated to open by the end of the year.

“When I started, Del Taco didn’t really exist in the Northwest,” he says, “yet there was a huge influx of people moving up to Washington from California who were already familiar with the brand. This fanbase generated some early excitement that allowed us to be successful.”

Though guests are drawn to the brand’s food quality and service, Miller and other franchisees are drawn to Del Taco for its strong business strategy, corporate leadership, and respect for franchisees. Miller, along with a few other franchisees, are part of the FMAT (franchise marketing advisory team), which gives input on the brand’s menu and promotional strategies. The brand also finds ways to help franchisees by giving them access to data that can help them make better business decisions. Additionally, because Del Taco is the largest operator of the brand, the corporate team tests ideas before asking franchisees to try new equipment or recipes.

“Del Taco is always looking for ways to make the business a little easier in the back of house,” Miller says. “We rely on the corporate team, because they are willing to test initiatives that will make us more successful. They never ask us to do anything they aren’t going to do themselves.”

Though there are already over 580 Del Taco units chain-wide, the brand still has plenty of white space to grow. Miller notes his region, the Northwest, still offers many open markets, but the company’s expansion isn’t just limited to that region. Dave Wetzel, vice president of franchise operations for Del Taco says the company has goals of becoming a national brand. He says the chain, which operates today in 14 states, is not only infilling development in the West, but is also focused on growing in the Southeast and Northwest Regions, along with other specific states, such as Michigan and Ohio. Potential franchisees participate in a thorough vetting process to make sure they are a good fit for the brand. They will attend a Discovery Day to meet the executive team, experience the company culture, and learn more about the brand and support.

“One of our catch phrases is that every guest leaves happy, and we take that very seriously,” Wetzel says. “This is not a passive business where an investor can sit on the sidelines. Our franchise groups must have dedicated, experienced operators who are heavily engaged and personally invested and involved at both the unit and above-store levels.”

In return, franchisees can expect a sustainable business model that offers strong returns on investment and the support of the entire Del Taco team.

“This team cares deeply about the success of the franchise team,” Miller says. “I’ve been blessed to be in a lot of different businesses over the years. Up and down, this might be the brightest, sharpest, hardest-working group I’ve been around.”

By Peggy Carouthers

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