Chronic Tacos spices up the food chain from California to Vancouver and beyond,

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Brothers have ambitious expansion plans for fast-growing franchise

If everyone consumed Mexican food like Takeru Kobayashi the owners of Vancouver's fast-casual Chronic Tacos could consider early retirement.

Less than a year ago at Redondo Beach, the Nagano-born Kobayashi scarfed down 130 tacos in 10 minutes, shocking the California surf crowd while breaking his own world record for competitive eating.

"If all our customers ate like that, we'd be near the top of the Fortune 500 list," laughed Dave Mohammed, who with brothers Joey, Dan and Mike, owns and operates the trendy westside taqueria.

Most people in Vancouver aren't making food disappear in record time, but a lengthy mid-week lunch lineup at the remodelled 2,300-square-foot Chronic Tacos Mexican Grill on West Broadway suggests the public appetite for eating out has been revitalized.

"We really believe that to be true, especially for fresh, quality and properly priced food," said Dan Mohammed, who is the company's vice-president, and one of the figures overseeing the September opening of a Chronic Tacos in Metrotown.

It will be the third Chronic Tacos in Metro Vancouver, joining the West Broadway and 1,500-square-foot New Westminster locations.

It all happened quickly for the brothers, who worked with their late father in the lumber and logging business before seeking new careers that included "some fun" to go with the long hours.

After a foray into real estate among other business ventures, Michael Mohammed met in 2012 with Chronic Tacos founder Randy Wyner in Newport Beach, Calif., to talk about a possible partnership and eventually purchased the company in March of that year.

"We weren't food experts, especially with third-generation Mexican recipes, but we were smart enough to build a team that consisted of many who were," said Mike. "I was sold on the idea and the authentic food right from the start and knew what was needed to grow the brand." In 2012, Chronic Tacos opened a location in Anaheim's Angel Stadium and a year later added a restaurant at the Palm Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

The new locations garnered the right kind of attention - fans of the Major League Baseball Angels voting Chronic Tacos as the top stadium vendor in 2014 - and sparked their expansion, albeit controlled. The brothers actually closed several "under-performing" locations when they first bought the company.

"We'll have three Chronic Tacos in B.C. by the end of September and 30 more in the United States," said Mike, who as CEO is the only brother living full time in California.

Earlier this year, the chain opened its first location in Arizona and the Mohammeds signed a multi-franchise agreement for three Tacoma-area restaurants, with the possibility of 12 more outlets in Washington state.

"Washington is a pivotal next step in our growth initiative with the goal of opening more than 100 (U.S.) stores by 2018," said Mike.

"And we have people asking us to set up in Alberta, too," said Dan, who noted the partners are exploring development across Canada.

The company isn't lacking in notoriety as pro skateboarder Jason (Wee Man) Acuna, who starred in MTV's Jackass, is a franchise owner in California. The company also came up with its own hot sauce - Ghost Pepper - to help cross-promote the movie Haunted House 2. The condiment became an instant hit and is available for sale on West Broadway, along with the established house sauce Gringo Banditos concocted by the Offspring frontman Dexter Holland.

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