|Founded||March 14, 1969|
|Headquarters||Cheyenne, Wyoming, U.S.|
|Products||Mexican inspired cuisine|
Taco John's is a Cheyenne, Wyoming-based fast-food restaurant featuring Mexican-inspired fast food (which it calls "West-Mex"). The chain was founded in 1969 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and now comprises more than 400 restaurants in about 25 states.
Taco John's began as a small taco stand in Cheyenne, Wyoming, named "Taco House" that opened in 1968. John Turner started the Taco House restaurant in March 14, 1969, after being stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne 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 name to Taco John's.
Born in 1919 in Chariton, Iowa, Holmes's first job was as an auctioneer. He and his wife, the former Nona Zimmerman, later 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 produced stainless steel restaurant equipment nationwide until 2013.
James Woodson, born June 9, 1921 in Cheyenne, was also an entrepreneur who had owned a cab company and then Woodson Realty. Holmes and Woodson together created Woodson-Holmes Enterprises, which acquired the restaurant franchise rights from Turner. The name was changed to Taco John's in recognition of Turner and the company name became Taco John’s International, Inc. Holmes, who was also a pilot, died in 2012 of heart complications at the age of 92 in a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. Woodson died at the age of 87 in 2008 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
While Taco John's targeted smaller Midwestern and Western communities in its early years, the chain has recently begun to open in larger metropolitan areas like Denver and Kansas City, where they've had a minor presence since the 1980s. 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.
Lunch and dinner foods
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 "Potato Olés" (see below), sauces, spices, and salsas.
Some franchises offer a breakfast menu. Many of the items use a combination of Potato Olés, eggs, sausage, bacon, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, and a flour tortilla. Selections include four types of breakfast burritos and Potatoes Ole Scramblers.
Potato Olés are Taco John's signature item. Potato Olés 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 spices and seasonings. They are available for purchase in four sizes (kid, small, medium and large).
Potato Olés are also included as a filling in several different burritos (beef, chicken, and Crunchy Chicken versions of its Meat and Potato Burrito, as well as their Grilled Burrito with the same protein options), and many of the breakfast items.
Potato Olés are also featured in their Super Potato Olés platters, which come in small and regular sizes and are mostly made of Olés covered in nacho cheese, beef, beans, and other Mexican ingredients.
Potato Olés were introduced in 1979 and were originally cylindrical with fillings of refried beans.
Three items are normally on the dessert menu. These include churros, a star-shaped, long pastry coated with cinnamon sugar, Cini-Sopapilla Bites, also dusted with cinnamon sugar, and Glazed Sopapilla Bites which are given a cream-cheese icing.
During the Christmas holiday season, Taco John's offers the Apple Grande, a fried taco shell covered in apple pie filling, cheese, and a light dusting of cinnamon spice, and the Nachos Navidad, a nacho platter with red and green colored tortilla chips. Jose Feliciano's song "Feliz Navidad" is used in 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.
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. That 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.
Wesley Willis advertised Taco John's in at least one of his songs.
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 coming back for more! Taco John's."
2006 E. coli outbreak
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. On December 14, Black Hawk County, Iowa health officials stated that lettuce tainted with E. coli had been discovered in the supply chain. That same day, a Cedar Falls couple filed a lawsuit against Taco John's after their 9-year-old daughter was hospitalized for symptoms of E. coli. 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 midwestern United States.
- "Contact Us." Taco John's. Retrieved on February 25, 2010.
- Derdak, T. (2004). International Directory of Company Histories. International Directory of Company Histories. St. James Press. pp. 367–369. ISBN 978-1-55862-508-2.
Early History: From Taco Stand to Taco John's Chain. The sprawling restaurant chain dubbed Taco John's was born as a single, tiny taco stand. The "Taco House" as it was called, opened in 1968 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was started by a ...
- Obituary of Harold W. Holmes, Wyoming Tribune Eagle, February 14, 2012
- Obituary of James F. Woodson, Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
- 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.
- Taco John's Locations
- Fact Sheet
- Notes from the Test Kitchen
- Nachos Navidad Charitable Giving
- Taco John's History webcitation.org
- "Taco John's and In Defence Call More Dudes".
- "Wesley Willis Documentary".
- 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