Capital Tacos’ brand is branching out, but its roots will always be in Tampa Bay, and Pasco County, specifically. It only makes sense that its first foray into franchising is a local endeavor as well.
Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Brandon, the growing restaurant chain announced its franchising program earlier this year. Company leaders opted to stay close to home when approving their first applicants, selecting business partners Bill Hoopes and Patrick Affrunti.
The men became friends over the past decade through fastpitch softball, with both operating companies that run tournaments throughout the state. They were already exploring the idea of going into business together, Hoopes said, when they heard about the Capital Tacos opportunity.
“We were actually going to go with a whole different concept, and then they started franchising in January,” said Hoopes, a Hudson resident and former teacher at Chasco Middle School. “When I saw that we hit the brakes on what we were doing, circled back to here, and now we’re going to be franchise number one.”
The agreement reached between the business partners and Capital Tacos is a multi-unit deal that calls for three stores to be built in the next three years. Hoopes said the lease for the first was signed July 7 at a location in Trinity. The first franchisee-owned-and-operated Capital Tacos will take over the storefront being vacated by Five Guys in the Trinity Village Center shopping plaza along State Road 54 and Duck Slough Boulevard.
Hoopes said he’s hopeful for a September-October opening of the first franchise, followed by the next two in 12- to 18-month intervals. The future stores will be in Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs.
Capital Tacos’ founding store opened about a half-hour drive east of the future Trinity location, in Land O’ Lakes, and that’s where Hoopes and his wife first discovered the brand’s spin on Tex-Mex cuisine. The original store is within walking distance of Pasco County Schools’ district office campus. Hoopes and his wife were both teachers at the time — she still is, at Marlowe Elementary — and many work-related meetings involved a trip to Capital Tacos. That familiarity and appreciation of the business, combined with existing locations in New Port Richey and Wesley Chapel, further attracted Hoopes.
“The brand wealth is already in Pasco County,” he said, “so we plan on taking an already great product and item and making it the Capitol Tacos.”
Capital Tacos and its familiar lighted marquee has a Hillsborough County presence in Brandon and Riverview, as well as a concessions operation during Tampa Bay Lightning games and other events at Amalie Arena.
Hoopes said he and Affrunti are excited not only about the new challenge, but the opportunity to help Capital Tacos grow, thrive and expand as the company’s first franchisees. According to an interview one of Capital Tacos’ co-founders did with the Charlotte Business Review last month, plans are already in the works to expand the brand to the growing North Carolina city.