Oahu to get 6 Taco Del Mar eateries by spring
A local businessman has an agreement for 40 locations in the Pacific
The first of several Taco Del Mar taco-and-burrito restaurants in Hawaii will open next Friday at the Kunia Shopping Center in Waipahu.
Seattle-based Taco Del Mar's master developer for Hawaii, Guam and Saipan is local businessman Ken Nascimento, who already has signed all 19 franchisees for Oahu. He has an agreement to franchise 40 locations in the Pacific.
The first local Taco Del Mar restaurant is to be opened by Chad Taniguchi, president of Waipahu-based Quality Island Builders Inc., and his wife, Michelle. The construction company did the build-out on the restaurant, which will be managed by Kerri Kamanuwai.
Plans call for six Taco Del Mar restaurants on Oahu by next spring, including a Kapolei store to be opened by Herlinda Mansfield next month, a Moanalua Shopping Center location to be opened late next month, and a Waipio location to be opened in January, both by James and Angela Butler. The couple has agreed to open a total of six Taco Del Mar restaurants in the long term.
Nascimento is negotiating for locations on Windward Oahu and in Hawaii Kai, and he is looking for neighbor island franchisees. "We're being pretty aggressive in Hawaii," he said.
Taco Del Mar joins Maui Tacos, Wahoo's Fish Taco and Moe's Southwest Grill in the state amid an explosion of Hawaii restaurants built on a so-called fresh-Mexican restaurant concept, or Mexi-fresh.
The explosion has been happening on the mainland since the 1990s, inspired by fish taco shacks in Mexico, which spread up the California coast.
There are at least a dozen U.S. chains founded on freshly made tacos and burritos in a fast-casual atmosphere, not counting Taco Bell.
Of the Mexi-fresh restaurant chains operating in Hawaii, the roots of Wahoo's Fish Taco, with a single location on Ward Avenue, go back the deepest in time. Its parent company was founded in 1988.
Others, like the Hawaii-founded Maui Tacos chain, also feature laid-back surf-shack decor or beach themes.
Each offers similar dishes, such as tacos and burritos, but each also tries to differentiate itself.
Maui Tacos, for instance, incorporates Hawaii-influenced flavors and item names. Founder Mark Ellman was among the dozen charter members of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, an organization that put Hawaii flavors on the map of the culinary world.
At Maui Tacos and Wahoo's, dishes are prepared in a kitchen and brought out to customers. Other places, such as Taco Del Mar, take a cue from Subway and similar sandwich shops and prepare items front of customers as they choose ingredients.
"It's a fast-growing category," Nascimento said of Mexi-fresh.