Fuzzy’s Taco Shop Approaches 150-Unit Mark Through Organic Growth; Now Seeks Partners Who Enjoy the Laid-back Atmosphere and Awesome Eats
Every person who has experienced Fuzzy’s Taco Shop not only has one they go to, they have what they call “My Fuzzy’s,” a neighborhood location that’s as laid-back as their favorite beachside taco joint with food that’s worth talking about and margaritas with major chill. Many franchisees were drawn to the brand as fans first, and they have stories about “their” Fuzzy’s before they actually opened their own Fuzzy’s. In fact, franchise growth up to this point has come solely through the brand’s cult-like following. Now, with a focus on expansion through franchising, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop plans to open an additional 20 restaurants this year on top of the seven already opened so far in 2019. And, the franchise is on pace to have its 200th location open by the end of 2020.
“Everybody is happy in our restaurants. You can hear it when they say ‘My Fuzzy’s’ as they talk about us,” said Mel Knight, President of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. “When you walk into a Fuzzy’s at 7:30 in the morning, you see all types of people enjoying themselves – nurses, a Bible study group, policemen and firemen. It’s pretty amazing to walk into that environment and see how many people are having a great time before 8:00 a.m.”
This contagious vibe has helped Fuzzy’s Taco Shop surf past its competition to become one of the fastest growing brands in the taco category, opening 70 locations in the last three years with its sights set reaching the milestone 200th location. One of the more attractive values that has built the fanatical following of Fuzzy’s is the personal relationship both guests and operators have with the brand.
“The wife of one of our franchisees described Fuzzy’s best,” Knight said. “She said, ‘Every time I go to Fuzzy’s, I feel like I’m on vacation.’ We have created this environment at Fuzzy’s where you can come in a suit, come in shorts, come however you are. You can bring kids that run around. Mom can get a margarita, dad can get a cold beer, and the whole family can get a great meal for under $30. Everybody’s happy.”
This relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere and customer value proposition make Fuzzy’s Taco Shop a standout franchise opportunity in the restaurant space.
“To our guests, laid-back locals who go with the flow and not with the crowd, Fuzzy’s is the taco place where Mexican faves are served with a splash of Baja at a price that makes it accessible for everyone,” said Michael Mabry, Chief Development Officer, who recently left his post as President of MOOYAH Burgers, Fries and Shakes to lead Fuzzy’s on its growth path. “Fuzzy’s is the opportunity in the franchising world right now. If someone wants to invest in something special and be part of an exclusive club of people, this is it.”
Fuzzy’s Taco Shop owns the fast-casual category in every sense – from location buildout and customer experience to its strong Item 19, with its average unit volume coming in at $1.48 million as reported in its 2019 Franchise Disclosure Document. With solid unit-level performance, the unapologetic brand has captured the attention of multi-unit and multi-brand operators who are quickly scooping up territory claims. The 53 operators who have already joined Fuzzy’s on its mission currently own nearly 150 locations with another 70 in development.
As Fuzzy’s Taco Shop begins promoting its franchise opportunity, the brand plans to continue to develop and support existing restaurants while carefully identifying new operators to join the club and establish emerging markets. The brand is looking for operators similar to those who have joined the system, including Clint Bixler and Eddie White, the brand’s first franchisees and largest operators who currently own 12 restaurants; Merrick McKinnie, a Sonic, McAlister’s Deli, and MOD Pizza operator who has three Fuzzy’s open and 18 in development (the most in the system); Marc Rogers, who has nine open locations and one in development in Colorado and plans to open 10 more in Colorado and Idaho; and Manny Leclercq, who is developing the entire state of Oklahoma with his seventh of 14 units under construction.
Not only are Mabry and Knight guiding the franchise development efforts, but Fuzzy’s is also backed by franchise private equity specialist NRD Capital, which invested in the brand in 2016. At that point, Fuzzy’s had only 80 locations.
“The same way our franchise partners are seeing it, we saw the opportunity to be a part of a brand that had mastered its positioning and ownership of a category,” said John Teza, Operating Partner of NRD and former Chief Development Officer of Jersey Mike’s. Teza and his team at NRD Capital also noticed that the brand was named one of Nation’s Restaurant News’ “Fastest Growing Chains” of 2018, as well as QSR magazine’s Top 6 “Best Franchise Deals by Franchisee Satisfaction” in 2016.
Restaurants range from 3,000 to 4,000 square feet and cost between $858,500 to $1,329,000 to open. The brand is currently targeting expansion in markets across the U.S. including Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Colorado and Arkansas.
“Traditionally, our approach to growth has been a little bit backwards. We haven’t really focused on marketing our franchise opportunity; the growth we’ve experienced has all been organic, which is a great place to be,” Knight said. “Now, as we plan to reach 200 locations by the end of 2020, we are looking to partner with franchisees that appreciate a laid-back atmosphere but aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get to work. To me, success is defined by our franchisees being ultra-successful and proud they’re a part of this family. Our support is genuine; we will do whatever it takes to help them succeed.”
Founded in 2003 near the Texas Christian University campus in Fort Worth, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop is a fast-casual restaurant serving Mexican favorites with a splash of Baja. The laid-back atmosphere pairs perfectly with signature Baja-style tacos, famous chips and queso and icy-cold beverages always served at a chill price. With nearly 150 corporate- and franchise-owned locations in 16 states, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop was named Nation’s Restaurant News’ #10 “Fastest Growing Chains” of 2018, was included on Franchise Business Review’s “Top Franchises” list in 2017, and was QSR magazine’s Top 6 “Best Franchise Deals by Franchisee Satisfaction” in 2016.