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The return of Chronic Tacos

tacos2By Peter Saunders
Call it ‘Just Rebeginning.’ Chronic Tacos recently hosted a grand reopening celebration for its Vancouver restaurant, unveiling new renovations that will set the tone for all future franchises across North America. Founder and president Randy Wyner was in attendance, alongside the more recently established management team of Michael, Dan, Dave and Joey Mohammed, four brothers from Canada.

The event illustrated the somewhat unusual path the food-service chain has taken. Wyner opened the first Chronic Tacos shop in 2002 in Newport Beach, Calif. With the success of the fast-casual restaurant’s made-to-order authentic food, based on recipes from a Mexican friend, he opened a second location in 2004 and began franchising in 2006.

The brother discovered the brand and concept shortly thereafter, when expansion plans were made for Canada and the new master franchisee needed their help with financing. Finally, in 2012, the Mohammed family’s corporation, Calivan Enterprises, took full control of the company. Michael is now CEO, Dan is vice-president (VP), Dave is marketing director and Joey is graphic designer. Wyner remains an active partner in the business.

There are more than 30 Chronic Tacos locations today, primarily in Southern California and British Columbia. The Mohammeds have plans to expand along the west coast and throughout Canada, opening 100 stores by 2018.

John Kelly PhotographyWe want to continue to grow in British Columbia, then Alberta and Ontario,” says Michael, who has moved to California while his brothers remain in Canada. “In the U.S., we’re looking to expand in the northwest, including Washington and Oregon, as well as Texas and Nevada. We recently opened our first food-court location in the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. We’ll likely go eastward in Canada first, though, before the U.S. This is more of a differentiated brand in Canada, whereas California has taco shops all over the place.”

The revamped Vancouver shop is intended to showcase a cleaner, more functional layout, allowing customers to line up and be served more efficiently. It also features a fully licensed bar.

“We’re increasing the standards and weeding out of some of the cantina-style franchises, where the experience isn’t a walk-up-and-order taco shop,” says Michael. “We want to have a clearer, more replicable brand.”

That said, there is also an effort to incorporate localization. The Vancouver restaurant, for example, features traditional Mexican ‘Day of the Dead’ art like the other stores in the chain, but created by a local designer.

“Everywhere we go, we’ll work with the franchisee,” Michael says, “and that will come through in the décor.”

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