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French Tacos: The Next Big Thing in Franchising?

Fast food franchise O’Tacos is outpacing McDonald’s in France and poised for global growth.

From French fries to crème brûlée, croissants to French onion soup, the French have given us many decadent treats. Now there’s another one to add to the list: The French taco.

Not exactly haute cuisine (or tacos either), the calorie-laden sandwich consists of a grilled flour tortilla folded around a filling of meat, cheese, and — bien sûr — French fries. 

The French taco craze is being led by fast-food franchise O’Tacos, founded in 2007 by Patrick Pelonero and brothers Silman and Samba Traoré with locations throughout France, as well as franchises in Belgium, Algeria, Marrakesh, Morocco and the Netherlands. 

Currently expanding in France at a rate faster than McDonald’s, in 2018 the 220-unit brand formed a partnership with Kharis Capital — a Burger King shareholder in Belgium — and moved its headquarters to Montrouge in Southern Paris where it opened a restaurant school to train new franchisees.

After adding three subsidiary brands to its portfolio — including O’Sucre (sweet tacos), O’taglace (customizable ice cream sundaes) and O’Shake (customizable milkshakes) — the chain is poised for global expansion. 

“With more than 40 restaurants by year-end in the Benelux countries, O’Tacos is ready for its next stage of development targeting its home market neighbors,” the brand says on its LinkedIn page. “In parallel, our development team is also assessing other international markets balancing the market opportunities with the operational challenges. Therefore, O’Tacos is looking for strong partners to support them in order to successfully develop its concept ahead.”

The French fast food concept might be familiar to New Yorkers. O’Tacos opened its first U.S. location in Brooklyn in 2017, although the store has since closed. Still, O’Tacos represents a new segment to the fast-food market, and the timing might be particularly good for U.S. investors. According to the latest weekly report from Black Box Intelligence, the restaurant industry posted positive same-store sales growth for the third consecutive week with quick-service restaurants being the top-performing segment.