Skip navigation
NRN Showdown

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop distinguishes itself with all-day hours, beverage offerings

Dine Brands-owned concept plans growth through franchising, with both coasts on its target list.


Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, the Dine Brands Global–owned concept, carries the nickname of one of the original prep cooks, Fuzzy, and the emphasis remains on Baja-style tacos and a full-service bar, said Paul Damico, president of the concept.

Founded in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2003, the 20-year-old brand has evolved with drive-thru offerings and a broad customer demographic, growing to 138 units in 18 states.

In December, Glendale, Calif.-based Dine Brands Global, parent to the Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar and IHOP concepts, bought the fast-casual concept from private-equity firm NRD Capital’s Experiential Brands LLC subsidiary for $80 million.

Being part of a large, publicly traded company is offering this brand so many benefits to really exponentially grow,” Damico said. “We've already added new headcount in the development teams and design and construction and real estate, so we're already stepping up how we're going to grow the brand.”

Damico said the corporate structure also gives Fuzzy’s wider access to human resources, communications and information technology.

“That is something that this brand wouldn't see for 10 or 15 years at the level we now have stepped into,” Damico said, adding that Applebee’s and IHOP franchisees have also expressed interest in building out their portfolios with the Fuzzy’s concept.

Damico, who has led Fuzzy’s for nearly two years, said the high-quality tacos remain a strong selling point, along with the full bar and breakfast all day. With an average 4,000-square-foot building with patio and a from-scratch culinary program, Fuzzy’s remains an interesting franchise vehicle, he added. About 80% of units serve the breakfast daypart, opening between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., Damico noted.

While his personal favorite is the egg-cheese-and-chorizo taco, he said the best-selling menu items are both seafood: the Baja Fish Taco and the Tempura Shrimp Taco.

“The fact that we have bowls and tacos and burritos and salads and plates is something that we can play to every demographic,” Damico said. “And when you come into our restaurant you will see every demographic: white collar, blue collar. You'll see the attorneys. You'll see the painters and the landscapers, and there's something for everyone. And the reason there is something for everyone is that we have an entry price point under $3, and nobody is doing that in the full service.”

Nearly all the locations offer adult beverages, with the exception being one on a college campus, he said.

Fuzzy’s real estate needs remain much the same as before the pandemic, Damico said.

“We typically are looking for an acre to an acre and a quarter for our freestanding buildings,” he said. “We can do endcaps in the 3,500–4,500 square feet [range].”

Fuzzy’s is testing a drive-thru prototype in Auburn, Ala., and Leesburg, Ga.

The company is now generating 40% of its revenue through off-premises sales, Damico said. “Prior to the pandemic, we were in the 19% range. So that's more than doubled now. And that’s a combination of third-party delivery, to-go and catering.”

Damico said Fuzzy’s has restaurants in the middle of the nation, from Minnesota down into South Texas. Growth areas include California and the East Coast, he said.

“Those are very strong markets for the Dine Brands of Applebee’s and IHOP,” Damico said.

Dine Brands Global has more than 3,500 restaurants in 16 countries and 388 franchisees as of Dec. 5.

Vote for Fuzzy’s Taco Shop in the Taco Showdown on LinkedIn or Instagram.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

TAGS: Food Trends
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.