The lines between quick service and fast casual have blurred to unprecedented degrees. You can thank the digital revolution of COVID-19 and how convenience became a trademark of brands across foodservice, sit-down restaurants included. Yet one thing that hasn’t vanished— the entrepreneurial nature of the sector’s most innovative category.
Fast casual exploded out of the Great Recession due to its variety and nuance. In some ways, it was the counter-service world’s long-awaited answer to the strength of independent restaurants.
And so arrived brands of every food category and background, all capitalizing on the strengths of both segments, but with designs to grow. COVID didn’t change this. In truth, it might only serve to accelerate it. Fast casuals are emerging more connected and stronger than ever, with tech-centric models and even drive-thrus.
Regardless of what’s changed, though, the unique DNA of these upstarts continues to fuel fast casual’s trajectory. Our annual 40/40 List is now in its sixth iteration, recognizing 40 brands with fewer than 40 locations that we believe can be the next big thing. This group has weathered the storm and is ready to thrive in the most dynamic operating environment on record.
Awarded a three-star review from the Tampa Bay Times, Capital Tacos has reeled in praise ever since its 2013 founding as a corner restaurant—no sign or marketing budget—in Land O’ Lakes, Florida. The brand spent recent years developing its menu (husk street corn, hand-spiced crispy fries) and developing a concept ready to scale via franchising. The latter program is set to launch in early 2022, with the coming two calendars primed for growth, executives say. It will initially target Southeast franchisees before looking at nationwide opportunities.
The primary focus will center on an owner-operator model and robust employee-to-franchisee career path. Additionally, Capital Tacos uses 100 percent second-generation spaces rather than new development—an approach the company says is better for the environment and helps keep initial investment costs down. “In turn, this makes for an attractive and achievable opportunity to many potential franchisees interested in bringing our award-winning offering to their local communities,” the brand says.
Alongside franchise growth, Capital Tacos will expand through corporate locations in the Tampa Bay market as well.