Fate Acquired by Taco Bell
Founded 1969, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Founder Marno McDermott
Defunct 1986
Area served
United States
Products Mexican food
Owner Heublein (1970s)

Zantigo is the name of a chain of fast food Mexican restaurants in the United States and also its predecessor, a separate chain that existed in the 1970s and 1980s.

Original Zantigo chain (1969-1987)

This was the logo of the original Zantigo chain.
A former Zantigo in St. Louis, Missouri, now occupied by Taco Bell.

Zantigo was founded, as Zapata, in 1969 by Marno McDermott, who would later be the co-founder of another Mexican chain, Chi-Chi's. In 1974, he sold Zapata to KFC's then owners, Heublein.[1][2] (Zapata's home Mexican food product line was renamed Ortega at this time.) In 1976, the chain of Zapata Mexican fast-food restaurants was renamed Zantigo.[2] The chain grew rapidly in this period. Television ads for Zantigo featured a Mexican-American narrator with an accent who ended the commercials with the tag line, "Zantigo -- you'll be back, amigo."

In 1977, it was reported that average annual sales for a Zantigo location, $300,000, exceeded those for a Taco Bell store, $230,000,[2] and the Louisville-based Zantigo was eager to challenge Taco Bell in the market. But by 1980, KFC had put expansion plans for Zantigo on hold in order to focus on its core Kentucky Fried Chicken business.[3] Heublein was acquired by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in 1982. Following the 1985 takeover by Reynolds of Nabisco, the new company, RJR Nabisco divested itself of many businesses. In 1986, KFC was sold to PepsiCo for $850 million. Since Pepsi already owned a national Mexican food chain, Taco Bell, the decision was made to close or convert all existing Zantigo restaurants, of which there were 82 as of the October 1, 1986 announcement.[4] The conversion was complete by late 1987 and the Zantigo name disappeared.

In many cases, the existing Zantigo stores were in better locations or in better physical condition than nearby Taco Bell locations. So, most Zantigo locations were rebranded as Taco Bell and the nearby Taco Bell stores closed. This led indirectly to the Taco Bell chain adopting many of the distinctive architectural details of the Zantigo design into new Taco Bell restaurant buildings.

Zantigo also had several unique menu items - the Chilito, the Taco Burrito, Chips 'n' Cheese. Of these, the Chilito was carried over by Taco Bell after the purchase in former Zantigo markets. The Chilito was promoted to a chain-wide item, and was later renamed "Chili-cheese Burrito".

New Zantigo chain in Minneapolis-Saint Paul area (1991-present)

A new Zantigo chain, under new ownership consisting of a former Zantigo manager and his brother, had opened three restaurants in Minnesota by 1999 and currently has five locations in Minnesota. The restaurants are located in Blaine, Bloomington, Fridley, St. Paul, and Woodbury, Minnesota. The menu contains many recipes and items from the original Zantigo chain, with numerous additions.


  1. "No title". Corporate Report. Ninth Fed Communications. p. 45. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 Lazarus, George (May 25, 1977). "Colonel puts 'Zantigo' in vocabulary". Chicago Tribune. p. C9.
  3. Sammons, Donna (March 2, 1980). "Kentucky Fried Chicken can cackle again". New York Times. p. F3. (subscription required (help)).
  4. "PepsiCo to merge Zantigo's, Taco Bell". San Jose Mercury News. October 2, 1986. p. 10C.
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