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Austin's beloved Torchy's Tacos fires up massive expansion plans by 2023

Austin's own Torchy's Tacos fires up massive expansion plans by 2023

Torchy's Tacos queso
Torchy's famed queso is heading to 15 more states. Torchy's Tacos/ Facebook

From a business perspective, Austin-based Torchy’s Tacos is going for the whole enchilada.

During a January 15 presentation at a restaurant industry conference in Orlando, Florida, Torchy’s Tacos CEO G.J. Hart revealed that the Tex-Mex chain's plans could include 160 locations across 15 states by the end of 2023. Trade magazine QSR first reported the news January 17.

“We offer a differentiated experience that has a unique place in the market, and we feel that the time is right to continue our expansion outside of our current four states,” G.J. Hart, CEO of Torchy’s Tacos, tells CultureMap.

Today, Torchy’s Tacos operates 71 stores in Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, and Oklahoma. Among the states included in the expansion are Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Tennessee.

“Torchy’s will always stay close to its Texas roots and will continue to expand where there is demand,” Hart says. “The company has plans to open more than 10 new locations in its existing four-state territory in 2020 and will continue to develop throughout our existing states.”

Torchy’s operates 18 locations in the Austin area, 17 in Dallas-Fort Worth, 18 in the Houston area, and four in the San Antonio area.

Hart says there’s “significant demand” for the Torchy’s brand both inside and outside its current four-state footprint.

“The whole goal is to start to get people to understand what Torchy’s is, how good the food is, and that we’re coming at some point in time,” Hart said in Orlando.

“Last I checked,” he said, “tacos have been around a long time — I don’t think they’re going out of style. As long as we continue to bring innovation to that and bring opportunity to our people, we’ll continue to grow.”

Former corporate chef Mike Rypka founded Torchy’s in 2006 as a taco truck in Austin. He remains at Torchy’s as vice president of marketing and culinary. Today, the Torchy’s empire rings up average per-store sales of $3.8 million a year, according to QSR.

Hart came aboard as CEO in January 2018 to fire up Torchy’s growth, and brought with him an impressive track record in the restaurant sector.

Before joining Torchy’s, Hart was executive chairman, president, and CEO, of Playa Vista, California-based restaurant chain California Pizza Kitchen. Previously, he was president and CEO of Louisville, Kentucky-based steakhouse chain Texas Roadhouse. During his 11 years at Texas Roadhouse, he led the company through its 2014 IPO and revved up annual revenue from $63 million to more than $1 billion.

“Torchy’s has significant growth potential, and I cannot imagine a more exciting time to join the team,” Hart said in a 2018 release announcing his new role at the taco chain.“Torchy’s is a unique and dynamic brand with a talented leadership team and team members whose success is anchored by a strong culture that can’t be matched in the fast-casual space. I look forward to working closely with the company’s leadership team to continue to build on its already successful efforts of originality and quality as the company enters its next phase of growth.”