Fuzzy's Taco Shop
Executive Q&A with Fuzzy’s Taco Shop President, Mel Knight
1851 Franchise connected with Mel Knight, President of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, to discuss how the laid-back taco concept is breaking the franchising mold.
What drew you to Fuzzy’s Taco Shop?
For my entire career, I have worked in the restaurant industry. A friend of mine was putting together a team of individuals to invest in the first round of franchising for Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. The concept sought to build momentum in the food service industry, so I was asked to be an investor in the second unit for the brand.
I ultimately decided to join the company because I truly admired the quality of food and the laid-back nature of Fuzzy’s. There’s incredible value in our consumer proposition that individuals can’t find elsewhere in our segment.
What about Fuzzy’s Taco Shop makes it unique within its industry?
There are several aspects to Fuzzy’s Taco Shop that make us unique, but, if I had to narrow it down, the top two traits that make the brand stand out are our quality products and opportunity. As a fast-casual restaurant, making so many menu selections from scratch is quite the feat and an attractive aspect in our industry. Plus, the brand is a high-valued unit because it also houses a full bar in that same fast-casual, laid-back atmosphere. There aren’t many brands that can say that.
What have been some of the brand’s most important milestones over the past five years?
In 2007, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop had only three restaurants. Today, we’re closing in on 150 locations. That growth has been incredible. The majority of that development has been with our internal franchisees, the ones who have continued expanding Fuzzy’s well beyond what we initially thought it would be.
While there have been a lot of important milestones, the biggest milestone in my opinion is the regional growth we’ve seen for Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. It was huge for us to travel outside of our home base in Texas. As a brand, we have successfully expanded to places like Colorado and Florida. Watching our concept, our menu and our offerings grow and thrive is exciting.
What plans does the brand have in the coming years (to highlight momentum)?
Traditionally, we haven’t ever really marketed our franchise opportunity -- we’ve had a lot of our prospects reach out to us organically. As a brand, we’re all about creating a relationship with folks and digging deeper to know where they want to get involved in their community. It’s more about understanding and becoming part of the culture instead of just placing restaurants anywhere.
So now, we’re taking a much more targeted approach to franchising by backing the development with true data. We’ve identified areas for locations based on market research of demographics and household income averages. With that information, we will then place experienced franchisees in those specific areas.
What does an ideal franchisee look like?
The most critical attribute for the ideal franchisee is someone who isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and be a strong presence in the restaurant. While we have some owners that have strong managers operating the restaurants, by and large, our franchisees’ true skillset is living and breathing the lifestyle of the restaurant as a multi-unit franchisee.
I’ve had the luxury of telling every franchisee that this takes a lot of effort, time and money. I like to be honest, so I’ve told some prospects that if they like to golf daily this is not the opportunity for them.
Owning a restaurant franchise, with as much work as it takes, can be extremely rewarding, especially if you want to take the time to truly develop the brand. Most people think they can just build-out a restaurant and turn on the lights, but that’s not what this company is about. It truly is hard work and we admire that dedication in our franchisees.
Why is Fuzzy’s a good investment?
When individuals franchise with Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, they are investing in something special. Our come-as-you-are atmosphere and customer and operator relationships with the brand make it a tremendous franchise opportunity.
Fuzzy’s is a concept that provides guidance and support to our existing restaurants and prospects through location buildout, customer service and a strong average unit volume. There is incredible economic and personal value in creating and investing in an establishment of your own that has strong repeat business driving recurring revenue. Our model allows franchisees to reap the benefits of their hard work.
How does Fuzzy’s Taco Shop support franchisees?
Success at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop is watching our franchisees come out on top, whether that’s through sales or store expansion. We want our partners to be successful in their businesses, first and foremost. If they are experiencing strong sales, then we know the company as a whole is on the right track.
We are a franchising-focused company which means we make decisions for the benefit of our partners. Ultimately, as a brand, we are here to serve them. The culture of Fuzzy’s is defined by how we support our franchisees; we showcase and celebrate hard work, and we continue to encourage them to succeed in their business.
The idea and purpose of the brand isn’t about bringing in a certain cashflow or building a number of units in a specified time. We just want to see our franchise partners work hard and be successful every day in all different aspects of growth, relationships and development.