District Taco is an East Coast brand ready to expand beyond its Washington, D.C., footprint.
To do so, the company has been inking several multi-unit deals, including a 10-store agreement in the Virginia Beach region of southeastern Virginia with the experienced franchisees behind Brothers Best.
“Our background with franchising has primarily been with Popeyes,” said Carl Gorospe, who leads Brothers Best. “Our family entered Popeyes by starting in D.C. and from there going to New Jersey and New York. When Popeyes was acquired by RBI with Burger King, though, we didn’t feel the direction was the right fit for us.”
Restaurant Brands International, the parent company of Burger King, bought Popeyes in 2017; it also owns Tim Hortons and Firehouse Subs.
Brothers Best exited the chicken brand and began looking elsewhere for opportunities. It didn’t take long for Gorospe’s parents to come across the family’s next venture. While visiting Washington, D.C., they discovered District Taco, and were hooked.
“They were impressed with the taste, it was fresh, and the place was busy,” Gorospe said. “My mom inquired right away and we got in touch with the brand. It all happened in a timely manner.”
The franchisees opted to develop District Taco where they reside, in the Tidewater region, a coastal area at the border of Virginia and North Carolina. Along with Virginia Beach, Brothers Best plans to develop units in Williamsburg, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Chesapeake.
“The 10 units was based on the territory we have and what we could potentially operate,” Gorospe said. “Right now, our first location was approved and we’re in the process of submitting paperwork and drawings. It’s going to be near Old Dominion University and we’re planning to have our second location in Chesapeake.”
Gorospe said they wanted to have their locations close to home, as the family has always been involved in the day-to-day operations of their franchise endeavors.
For District Taco, Brothers Best is exactly the type of franchise group the brand is looking for as it grows at a steady pace.
“One of our strategies is exclusively offering multi-unit opportunities with a minimum of five locations in our development agreement,” said Tina Gantz, vice president of franchise development at District Taco. “We mitigate risk in that way, because we’re only working with experienced restaurant operators. Brothers Best is a perfect example of that. They have many years in multi-unit operations.”
Still an emerging brand, District Taco has 14 corporate locations, primarily in the D.C. metro area and some Philadelphia suburbs. The brand started in 2009 as a food cart serving breakfast tacos, with the first brick-and-mortar store going up in 2010.
Since its founding, District Taco has been inspired by flavors from Yucatán, a Mexican state on a peninsula on the Gulf of Mexico.
“Authenticity and freshness are key at District Taco,” Gantz said. “The Yucatán style relies heavily on citrus and peppers, and it allows us to have a simple, light menu that’s customizable.”
As an operator, the style of food and the preparation were seen by Gorospe as advantages.
“In the kitchen, the operation is a straightforward process,” Gorospe said. “Food is cooked fresh in the beginning of the day, sold at lunch, and the whole thing is done again the next day. What we’re serving is healthy and we’re not cutting corners. The layout of the kitchen is also very nice. You can maximize every corner to make the product, package it and sell it efficiently.”
As it seeks more franchisees like Brothers Best, Gantz said District Taco wants to develop the mid-Atlantic region, with states such as Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, the Carolinas targeted for expansion. The first franchise locations have yet to open, but Gantz said the first two are expected to launch soon.
“The initial locations are super critical in launching a brand,” Gantz said. “We are very particular about our locations and it can be a little frustrating initially as we work with our franchisees to bring two visions together. I think we’re knocking it out of the park, though, and I don’t say that lightly. We have under agreements a total of 70 units.”