Breakout Brands 2017: Tacodeli

Infusing the humble taco with Austin, Texas-inspired creativity

Tacodeli has distilled a creative, Austin, Texas-inspired vibe into a menu of unique tacos that elevate it from the traditional taqueria.

Eric Wilkerson, who co-owns Austin-based Tacodeli Holdings Inc. with founder Roberto Espinosa, said the six-unit, fast-casual concept is built on a team that shares a passion for quality ingredients and building community. 

Tacodeli’s seventh unit, which will open in late March, in Houston, is going into a nearly 100-year-old building — think exposed brick and high ceilings. The Dallas location, which opened about a year ago, is in new construction, so the design is more industrial and ecologically sensitive, Wilkerson said. 

“We want to have a common thread, so that the guest feels like they are in Tacodeli as they go from store from store, but we don’t want them to be cookie-cutter identical versions,” he said. 

Best-selling menu items include the Cowboy Taco, with dry-rubbed beef tenderloin, grilled corn, caramelized onions, roasted peppers, guacamole and queso fresco, and the Mojo Fish Taco, with grilled, line-caught Texas Gulf drum, mojo garlic sauce, guacamole and pico de gallo. The average check is $10 to $11.

The first Tacodeli opened in 1999, in Austin, where the chain has five restaurants.

“We’ve had our heads down with slow growth,” Wilkerson said. “We were growing as our bandwidth allowed us to do that. We don’t want to grow so quickly that it impacts our culture or the quality of the experience for our guests.”

Tacodeli opens at 7 a.m. on weekdays and at 8 a.m. on weekends, and closes at 3 p.m. Breakfast is served all day during the weekend, and until 11 a.m. on weekdays.

“Guests like consistent service and good food,” Wilkerson said. “If you do that, they’ll keep coming back.”

Breakout Factors:

• Differentiated service: Fast-casual model with all-day breakfast service on weekends

• Premium ingredients: Tacos include regional ingredients like Texas Gulf shrimp and line-caught Gulf drum

 Hot culinary niche: Concept taps into growing trend for tacos, along with a wide variety of vegetarian options

TAGS: Fast Casual
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