|Headquarters||Cheyenne, Wyoming, U.S.|
|Products||Mexican inspired cusine|
Taco John's is a Cheyenne, Wyoming-based1 fast-food restaurant featuring Mexican-inspired fast-food (which the chain calls "West-Mex"). The chain was founded in 1969 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and currently has more than 400 Taco John’s restaurants in 25 states.
John Turner started the Taco House restaurant in 1968 after being stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming and serving in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. He sold the franchise rights to James Woodson and Harold W. Holmes, who in 1969 changed the brand name to Taco John's.
A versatile businessman, Holmes, born in 1919 in Chariton, Iowa, was originally an auctioneer. He and his wife, the former Nona Zimmerman, operated a furniture store in Cheyenne and also owned Holmes Camper Exchange, which manufactured campers and travel trailers under the name of "Holmes on Wheels," and Holmes Equipment and Supplies, which still produces stainless steel restaurant equipment nationwide. The Holmses launched Taco John’s International with co-founders James and Marion Woodson. The company has 400 franchises spread throughout Wyoming and 24 other states. Several new outlets opened in 2011, and another was under construction in 2012 in Longmont, Colorado. Holmes, who was also a pilot, died in 2012 of heart complications at the age of 92 in a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.2
While Taco John's targeted smaller Midwestern and Western communities in its early years, the chain has recently begun to open locations in larger metropolitan areas like Denver and Kansas City, where they've had a minor presence since the 1980s.3 Taco John's also operates several outlets serving the U.S. Armed Forces through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES). Taco Bell declined to participate.
In December 2006, a reported 50 people became sick and 18 people were hospitalized after eating at a Taco John's restaurant in Iowa. Shortly after that, Minnesota health officials reported that an additional 27 people became ill after eating at Taco John's restaurants in Rio Grande City, Texas and Grand Forks, North Dakota.6 On December 14, Black Hawk County, Iowa health officials stated that lettuce tainted with E. coli had been discovered within the supply chain. That same day, a Cedar Falls couple filed a lawsuit against Taco John's after their nine-year-old daughter was hospitalized for symptoms of E. coli.7 Taco John's dropped its produce supplier, Bix Produce of Grand Forks, North Dakota, as a result of the outbreaks. After a thorough investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health and the FDA, Bix Produce was cleared of any wrongdoing in the matter. The source of the outbreak was traced back to the growing fields in California. This incident came about at the same time as an unrelated E. coli outbreak at Taco Bell restaurants in the midwest of the United States.8
Taco John's has adopted "West-Mex" as a definition of their food and service attitude, and now holds a trademark on the term. "West-Mex" food is defined by the company as being about fresh, bold flavors due to the inclusion of their crisp potato nuggets branded as "Potatoes Olé" (see below), sauces, spices, and salsas.
Some franchises offer a breakfast menu. Many of the items on the menu use a combination of Potatoes Olé, eggs, sausage, bacon, and a flour tortilla. Selections include breakfast versions of tacos and burritos.
Potatoes Olé are Taco John's signature item and one of their most closely held trademarked items. Potatoes Olé are round, bite-sized potato nuggets, or crowns (which are similar to tater tots, but slightly smaller), that are deep fried and then coated with a proprietary blend of approximately 167 spices and seasoningscitation needed. They are available for purchase by the bucket.
Potatoes Olé are also included as a filling in several different burritos (beef, chicken, steak, and Crunchy Chicken versions of its Meat and Potato Burrito, as well as their Grilled Burrito with the same protein options) (much like Taco Bell's 1/2 lb. burrito), and many of the breakfast items.
Olés are also featured in their Super Potatoes Olé platters, which come in small and regular sizes and are mostly made of Olés covered in nacho cheese, beef, beans, and other Mexican ingredients.
Four items are normally on the dessert menu. These include churros, a star-shaped, long pastry coated with cinnamon sugar and Choco-Taco, a frozen waffle cone made in the shape of a taco shell that has chocolate and vanilla ice cream in it with almond bits and Cini-Sopapilla Bites, also dusted with cinnamon sugar. The last one is the Apple Grande, a cinnamon puff pastry with apple filling and shredded cheese and red cinnamon sugar on top.
During the Christmas holiday season, Taco John's offers Nachos Navidad, a nacho platter with red and green colored tortilla chips. Jose Feliciano's song "Feliz Navidad" is used in the commercials, and Feliciano speaks of celebrating the holiday "the Mexican way" with Nachos Navidad. A portion of sales from this item is donated to charity.citation needed
Taco John's early mascot, depicted on their street signage above the words "The Hottest Spot In Town," was a devil character. Later mascots were versions of a cartoonish, perhaps stereotypical, Mexican character named Juan with a giant sombrero and a donkey named Pépé.10 However, the figure was replaced in the mid-1990s by a more modern, artistic image.
Taco John's recent advertising icons have included Whiplash the Cowboy Monkey, a popular rodeo attraction and PRCA Entertainer of the Year, who rides on his dog Ben to the rescue of hungry taco lovers.
Punk band In Defence performed their song "Call More Dudes" in a Taco John's as part of a tribute to the franchise. 11
In the 1990s, Taco John's slogan was: "A Whole Lotta Mexican," which accompanied a jingle that stated "Once we getcha, then we gotcha.... gotcha comming back for more! Taco John's."
- "Contact Us." Taco John's. Retrieved on February 25, 2010.
- Obituary of Harold W. Holmes, Wyoming Tribune Eagle, February 14, 2012
- FundingUniverse.com. "Taco John's International, Inc., Company History". Retrieved 2006-12-14.
- www.tacojohns.com. "Taco John's Opens First Co-Branded Store in Cheyenne". Retrieved 2007-10-14.
- www.qsrmagazine.com. "Good Times, Taco John's Test Co-Branding". Retrieved 2007-10-14.
- Leys, Tony (2006-12-14). "Bad Lettuce Suspected in E. Coli Outbreak". Des Moines Register.
- "Cedar Falls Couple Files Lawsuit Against Taco John's". KCCI.com. 2006-12-14.
- FDA says E. coli strain traced to California dairy farms
- Notes from the Test Kitchen
- Taco John's History webcitation.org
- "Taco John's and In Defence Call More Dudes".
- "Wesley Willis Documentary".