West Coast fast-food staple Del Taco is coming to the west coast of Florida.
The California taco chain has struck a deal with an Orlando-area franchisee to bring at least seven Del Taco restaurants to the Tampa Bay area.
The locations of the stores has not been announced. A recent earnings announcement said they would be in the “Sarasota-Bradenton region,” but Jeff Little, Del Taco’s senior vice president of development, said the franchisee opening the restaurants would look all over the area.
“His initial development geography is Sarasota/Bradenton, but I expect that he will range beyond that as good sites come available across the metro area,” Little said in an email. “No specific sites or cities approved yet, but I suspect we’ll have a unit open sometime in 2022 at the rate that he is sourcing real estate.”
The franchises will be operated by FreshMex FL LLC, a corporation owned by Timothy Cloe of Orlando, whose many restaurant holdings include a number of Dunkin’ franchises. Messages left for Cloe via phone and email contacts listed through the state were not returned Thursday.
The Tampa Bay stores would be among the first Del Taco restaurants in Florida. There are currently two in Orlando, and another nearing completion in Melbourne. Future Florida stores will trade the chain’s familiar red logo for a remodeled design dubbed “Fresh Flex,” featuring smaller stores focused on drive-through and pickup options. The first Fresh Flex store will break ground this month in Orlando and open this fall.
In a recent earnings call with investor, Del Taco president and CEO John Cappasola Jr. said expanding into the Southeast was a priority.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work down there to grow our presence,” he said. “It gives folks more confidence in regards to the brand’s ability to perform, and that causes more material conversations to happen. So that’s certainly happened in the Southeast.”
At the end of 2020, Del Taco operated nearly 600 restaurants nationwide, most of them in California and other Southwestern states. The chain specializes in Mexican food, but also serves hamburgers, milkshakes and vegan and vegetarian options.