As the fast casual category continues to grow with innovative concepts, new sectors have also emerged within this segment. Since this restaurant format has proven to be particularly appealing to diners and restaurateurs, experienced brands in other segments are either investing in or developing fast causal concepts.
The casual dining giant, Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) recognized the potential in fast casual, specifically in the gourmet taco segment. In August of 2014, BWW bought a majority stake in Rusty Taco (now known as R Taco.)
We decided to sit down with Steve Dunn, chief executive and co-founder of R Taco to learn more about the brand and see why BWW invested specifically in this gourmet taco concept.
Why did Buffalo Wild Wings decide to venture into the fast casual market?
Dunn: In 2014, Buffalo Wild Wings made a majority investment in Rusty Taco (rebranded in 2015 to R Taco) as an entry point into the growing fast casual restaurant segment.
This investment is aligned to Buffalo Wild Wings’ long-term growth strategies. Buffalo Wild Wings believes that R Taco has potential for significant growth, is a concept that can work regardless of geography, and has a fresh approach to tacos that truly sets it apart.
And why the "Fresh Mex" sector?
Dunn: Fresh Mex/Tex Mex is one of the hottest segments, and Buffalo Wild Wings sees a rising demand for niche concepts that offers unique experiences and fresh ingredients.
And, as Rusty always said, ‘Tacos are the Most Important Meal of the Day!’
How is R Taco staying competitive in today's market?
Dunn: R Taco stays competitive by offering flavorful street-style tacos handmade fresh, fast, and from scratch, individually priced from $2-$3 so guests can customize their experience.
We also serve breakfast tacos all day (a hot trend right now), margaritas (always made with fresh lime juice,) and craft and local beers, as well as sides. It’s a simple, fresh and flavorful take on tacos – a concept that works for multiple day-parts, and we believe it will appeal to guests throughout the country.”
What consumer trends are you seeing and how is the brand catering to them?
Dunn: Here are some trends that we see, and that our guests appreciate about R Taco:
- A focus on quality and fresh Ingredients – we make all our sauces and salsas in house from scratch. We put a lot of love into our tacos when we make each unique recipe.
- Breakfast All Day – we offer a wide variety of breakfast tacos all day long.
- Snacking options – we offer tacos a la cart priced between $2-$3, and sides such as chips and freshly made guacamole, chips and queso, churros, etc.
- Fast casual drive thru – two of our locations have a drive thru, and we continue to look for real estate opportunities for drive thru.
- Outdoor dining – our locations feature roll-up garage doors, and many also feature patios with a comfortable, laid back vibe.
- Food Truck – We have a food truck in the Minneapolis/St. Paul market, and are looking to add more in other markets as we grow.
What are the most popular menu items at R Taco?
Dunn: It’s fun to see how this varies by state. Texans love our Brisket and BBQ Brisket tacos, our breakfast tacos and queso. Minnesotans are wild about the Fried Chicken taco. The Beef Fajita taco is popular at our Colorado locations, and the Texican taco is a top-seller at our Nebraska location.”
What's next for the brand?
Dunn: We recently announced plans to add new company-owned and franchise locations, along with announcing the addition of a new franchise group to bring the concept to south Texas and Louisiana. Franchise owner Chris and Kimberly Olexa signed a multi-unit agreement to open R Taco in Beaumont, Texas; Baytown Texas; and Lafayette, La. Chris and Kimberly Olexa currently own and operate seven Buffalo Wild Wings franchise locations in Texas and Louisiana.
R Taco currently has 13 company-owned and franchised locations in Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colo.; Omaha, Neb.; and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn. with plans to expand in all those markets.
Buffalo Wild Wings sees a rising demand for niche concepts that offer unique experiences and fresh ingredients, and again, believe R Taco has potential for significant growth.
We launched in Dallas in 2010 as Rusty Taco. Named after co-founder Rusty Fenton, we decided to shorten the name last year to R Taco to provide broader appeal as the concept expands beyond our Dallas roots. We are currently seeking interested and qualified franchisees and business partners with multi-restaurant experience to expand R Taco to markets including Indianapolis, Ind.; Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio; Louisville and Lexington, Ky.; Nashville, Tenn.; Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Okla.; and Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo.