There are more than a few versions of this joke... Come for SXSW, stay for the weather...or the tacos... or the music scene...
The taco scene here in Austin (yes, there is a taco scene here) has been kind of amazing. And for many years, you just have had to get to Austin to experience it. This isn't to say that there aren't good tacos elsewhere. Even taco scenes elsewhere. But Austin is Austin and Austin seems to have its own flair. Just one example: Migas are a staple breakfast item - or migas tacos - in Austin. But it isn't a common order outside of Austin... even in the rest of Texas. But in Austin, even sit down brunch restaurants that don't carry a TexMex menu are likely to serve great migas, because people here expect to find them on the menu and they are likely to order them.
Back to tacos. There's good news if you are missing Austin-style Tacos and don't get to Austin regularly.
Torchy’s Tacos - which started as a food truck and is now a fast-casual empire based in Austin, Texas - has just raised a whopping $400M to expand nationwide. If you live in one of the “taco deserts” of America, lacking a really credible taco joint, you may be in luck over the next few years as Torchy’s expands aggressively - expecting to double its restaurant count by 2024. The very first time I had Torchy's, we were at the hospital, and we had just delivered a baby, and one of our very good friends brought us Torchy's tacos to celebrate (and to get my wife some food that had more zest for life than the hospital food!).
“Torchy’s Tacos, the restaurant chain that started as an Austin food trailer in 2006, sold an additional stake to an investor group led by private equity firm General Atlantic for about $400 million, as the maker of what it calls “damn good tacos” plans an aggressive expansion.
Do you have any idea how many tacos $400M will buy? Approximately 100 million tacos at Torchy's. They've come a long way since that first food trailer...
“The new round of capital is a likely precursor to an initial public offering as soon as next year, said a person familiar with the company who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Hart and Crawford declined to comment on specific IPO plans.”
If I can make a few recommendations:
- Try the Ace of Spades. It is more of an experience than a taco. It might change your life.
- The Roscoe is also quite a bit better than you would expect it to be from the description and well worth it.
- The crossroads, and the democrat, are great go-to tacos
- You can’t go wrong with the chips-and-queso, or the street corn. It might be the best Queso you can buy at a restaurant today.
I have to say - there are many good taco joints in Austin, so if you're looking for recommendations, just ask anyone at BP3 and we'll share the list of recommendations! But most of them are small operations with one or a couple of locations. Torchy's is a whole different ball-game. Who knows, someday you may be able to get a taco and a queso up north.
Okay, we're all about tacos at BP3, but we're also all about process. Let's just take a moment to acknowledge that you cannot grow from a single food trailer to an empire of over 75 locations and expecting to double the current number in just a few years... without having great processes.
- great hiring and training processes. Because anywhere you get one of these tacos, they make it the same way, and they have the same system.
- great customer service operations at each store. I've been a customer for a long time so I've watched them evolve the ordering and pickup processes over the years to be more efficient (especially in their older, crowded locations)
- great operations for getting your supply locked in, negotiating contracts with all of your suppliers, etc.
- great real estate locating and development processes.
- great financial controls
- and great menu development and roll-out processes.
And I'm sure none of these were that great on day one, but I have to tip my hat to Torchy's ability to mature without losing what made it great: Damn Good Tacos.