Maui Tacos expansion deal calls for 62 restaurants in California
Maui Tacos will be sprouting up all over California under a new franchising agreement.
The deal, between Atlanta-based Maui Tacos International Inc., and Sacramento-based Lava Flow Ventures LLC, expands a 2004 development agreement from 12 restaurants to 62. There are currently 18 Maui Tacos locations in 10 U.S. cities, including eight in Hawaii.
Lava Flow opened its first Maui Tacos franchise in February in Roseville, Calif., and will open a second location this month in El Dorado Hills.
"After our first Maui Tacos experience in Hawaii, we knew that this concept had the food, fun and flair every franchise needs to succeed," said Bryon Axt, chief operating officer of Lava Flow.
"Our first Maui Tacos restaurant has been so successful that we decided to open 50 more, expanding our restaurants from Orange County to Sacramento."
Interest in Maui Tacos from commercial real estate brokers and developers in California has been "overwhelming," Maui Tacos said in a statement. It plans to develop stores in 13 counties and in portions of Los Angeles.
Maui Tacos International's chief executive, Jeff Endervelt, predicts the company's locations will quadruple in number in seven years.
"We will have 70 restaurants up and running within three years and have 200 restaurants open by 2014," he said.
"This agreement has us well on the way to accomplishing our goals, since we now have an 84-store backlog, all scheduled to open within the next seven years."
The company recently announced another agreement, with Meritage Enterprises, for 10 restaurants in Houston.
Maui Tacos was founded in Hawaii by Mark Ellman, his wife, Judy, and businessman Shep Gordon, with the first location opening in Napili, Maui, in September 1993.
It grew and formed a new franchising partnership with Blimpie International Inc., named Maui Tacos International Inc., both headquartered in Atlanta, in 1997. The idea was to export, via franchising, a fast-casual, fresh-taco-and-burrito restaurant concept across the Pacific. Ellman, a chef-restaurateur and one of the founding 12 members of Hawaii Regional Cuisine Inc., owns 25 percent of Maui Tacos International. Blimpie no longer has ownership. However, Maui Tacos International chief Endervelt is Blimpie's former CEO.
Ellman, his wife and Gordon retain ownership of the original Hawaii Maui Tacos under Lumi Kuke LLC, and are in lease negotiations for a food court location in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, Ellman told the Star-Bulletin.
The company has long wanted to set up shop in Waikiki, but leasing a "$25,000-a-month location" to sell $3 tacos would not pencil out, Ellman said.
However, leasing 600 square feet for a kitchen, with the landlord providing the dining space, can work, he said.
In addition to the eight Maui Tacos locations in Hawaii, Ellman owns the Penne Pasta Cafe in Lahaina, a casual Italian restaurant, and Mala Ocean Tavern, a fine-dining seafood restaurant also on Maui, at Mala Wharf.
"So Waikiki will be our 11th restaurant, so that's enough for now," he said.