In 1984, Anil Yadav got a job in the kitchen at a Jack in the Box restaurant making tacos. He said it took three visits to finally nail a position.
“I think they felt sorry for me and gave me a job working nights and weekends,” he laughs now. “Maybe someone didn’t show up that day, I don’t know.”
He worked hard and climbed the ranks into management. Within five years, Yadav was able to buy his first unit. Now his Fremont, Calif.-based Yadav Enterprises Inc. operates 213 Jack in the Box restaurants, more than 100 Denny’s and 52 TGI Fridays, along with El Pollo Loco, Sizzler and Corner Bakery — more than 400 units in all.
Yadav recently also acquired the nearly 150-unit Taco Cabana brand in an $85 million deal with Fiesta Restaurant Group, taking the fast-casual taco brand private. Fiesta retained sister brand Pollo Tropical in the deal.
Taco Cabana operates primarily as a company-owned chain in Texas. There is one franchisee who operates six units in New Mexico.
Yadav, who operates about 100 Jack in the Box and El Pollo Loco units in Texas, said he has long been a fan of Taco Cabana and its QSR aspects. All restaurants have drive-thrus, for example, and Yadav’s drive-thru locations thrived through the pandemic.
The fact that he operates El Pollo Loco in Texas, which could be seen as a competitor, is a “catch-22,” he said, but each have their own characteristics: “It’s a different product line and process.”
For the quarter ended April 4, the latest of Fiesta’s quarterly reports, Taco Cabana’s same-store sales declined 4.3%, but those results included the impact of Winter Storm Uri, which paralyzed Texas in February, and it was a significant improvement from the 10% decline in the preceding fourth quarter. Taco Cabana was able to maintain about 77% of sales through the drive-thrus.
Once the deal closes, which is expected in a few weeks, Yadav said the plan is first to look at perfecting consistency for the three-daypart menu, as well as the catering operation. The main challenge now is staffing, he said. His units are about 80-85% staffed and the company is focusing on retention, making sure workers have adequate training and offering incentive bonuses.
“They’re going through a lot,” he said of his staff, working overtime and under pressure. “We’re recognizing that effort and let them know we care.”
Yadav said he is open to growing Taco Cabana’s footprint with franchising down the road. It’s not the first time he’s been in the position of franchisor. Just before the pandemic, Yadav Enterprises became a stakeholder of the TGI Fridays brand, as well as a franchisee.
After 30 years in franchising, Yadav said he hasn’t lost the entrepreneur mindset. “That mindset has always kept me open to taking the risk,” he said.
Listen to Yadav talk about fitting Taco Cabana into his growing operation.
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]
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