Sizzling border success story – Mundo Latino: news events
El Taco Tote Real Mexican Grill, which began franchising in early 2003, has received commitments from seven franchisees to open a combined 15 locations in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.
Founded in Mexico in 1988 by the Heras family, El Taco Tote Real Mexican Grill has become a household name in parts of Mexico and Texas. Currently, ten Taco Tote restaurants are operating: six in Mexico and four in the United States (in Texas: one in Laredo and three in El Paso). The company’s “Build Your Own Taco” quick service concept with fresh ingredients has attracted customers and franchisees alike.
The Herases are a traditional Mexican family, large, close-knit, and loyal. Growing up in their small apartment, Dora Heras cooked daily for her husband and their seven sons and one daughter, as well as for other family members. She routinely prepared lunch and dinner for as many as 14 people. The Heras brothers good-naturedly admit to being spoiled, because rather than planning a menu and putting food on the table, their mother would prepare a different meal for each son according to his particular wishes and preferences for that day.
Her traditional Mexican recipes and culinary skills were the inspiration for El Taco Tote Real Mexican Grill.
The Heras brothers already had a great deal of restaurant experience before they opened their first El Taco Tote. Hector Sr, Marco, and Jorge Heras were each franchisees of another Mexican restaurant chain in Mexico.
In the meantime, the Heras brothers were experimenting with their own ideas. Though taco stands are plentiful in Mexico, they are just that, stands usually with no place to sit, serving food of inconsistent quality. Pacifico Heras thought there was a place in the market for a taco restaurant that would provide consistently high-quality food and a comfortable place for customers to relax and eat. He opened the first El Taco Tote in Juarez, Mexico, in 1988.
The operation was small and simple. Customers could see the meat being grilled, the tortillas being cooked, and the salsas being made. They could build their own taco from the fresh salsa and condiment bar, then have a place to sit and enjoy the food. That restaurant was so successful that Pacifico and his brothers went on to open five more across Mexico, then they ventured into Texas with the concept and opened in Laredo and El Paso.
With ten successful units running smoothly, the Heras brothers decided the most efficient route to further expansion was franchising. They hired Franchise Architects and its founder Craig Slavin, who was so impressed with the concept that he agreed to come on board as president and CEO of the franchise company and the franchise area developer in the Chicago area.
Today, three generations of the Heras family are involved in running El Taco Tote Real Mexican Grill, and Dora Heras’s recipes are still the foundation of the chain’s menu. They have been carefully adapted to large-volume, commercial preparation while still retaining their unique flavors and quality. The taste is the same, whether you’re in an El Taco Tote in Mexico or the United States, or being served in Dora’s home. Now 74 years old and a widow, Dora is still cooking, though she has long since left the small apartment for a three-bedroom home provided by her successful sons. On weekends, any number of her grown children and their own youngsters are likely to be at that house, enjoying her cooking, trying out new recipes, and keeping the family ties tight.
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