Randy Wyner is the Founder and President of Chronic Tacos, fast casual Mexican restaurants with more than 30 locations in the U.S., Canada, and Japan. As a passionate entrepreneur, Randy’s dream was to open and scale a worldwide chain restaurant business, which is a reality today thanks to his third-generation Mexican taco recipes and attitude for success.
Michael Mohammed is the CEO at Chronic Tacos responsible for the strategic vision and expansion of the brand. Michael’s background in leadership positions allowed him to apply his expertise in scaling and operating the business worldwide while enhancing the personality and uniqueness of Chronic Tacos. He graduated from Saint Martin’s University with a Master’s of Business Administration.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- Randy Wyner shares the evolution of Chronic Tacos: from a dream to a worldwide success
- Michael Mohammed’s methods for refining a brand
- The importance of balance in a business partner dynamic
- How to bring a simple culture of positivity to your restaurant locations
- Michael discusses the key to maintaining consistency across a multi-location business
- The role of technology in the restaurant business
In this episode…
In this episode of the SpotOn Series, Chad Franzen welcomes Randy Wyner, Founder and President of Chronic Tacos and Michael Mohammed, CEO at Chronic Tacos. They discuss Chronic Tacos’ 20-year business evolution, finding balance with your business partner, easy ways to reflect your brand culture in your restaurants, and how technology has enhanced the restaurant industry. Randy and Michael share unique business challenges and tips on how to refine your brand while maintaining worldwide consistency.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Randy Wyner on LinkedIn
- Mike Mohammed on LinkedIn
- Chronic Tacos
- Chad Franzen on LinkedIn
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Welcome to theTop Business Leaders Show, powered by Rise 25 Media, we featured top founders, executives and business leaders from all over the world
Chad Franzen 0:20
Chad Franzen here co-host for the show where we feature top restaurant tours investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn Series. SpotOn has the best in class payment platform for retail and they have a flagship solution called SpotOn Restaurant, where they combined marketing software and payments all in one. They have served everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and subway to small mom-and-pop restaurants. To learn more, go to spot on.com This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships with clients, referral partners and thought leaders in your space. There’s no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to Rise25.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Randy Wyner is the Founder of Chronic Tacos in Southern California chain of fast casual Mexican food restaurants. Born and raised in Orange County, Randy draws his inspiration from the distinct California and food culture. He grew up on authentic Mexican and signature SoCal talk arias. And it was his belief that the tastiest tacos he has tended to be small family owned shops that and that led him to open his first taco shop using third generation family recipes he acquired from a close family friend when rent when Randy was struck with the idea of Made to Order Mexican food that was both fast and fresh, Chronic Tacos was born. Michael Mohammed is the Chief Executive Officer and President of Chronic Tacos enterprises where he oversees the strategic vision of the fast casual Mexican restaurant brand. Michael and his three brothers first became affiliated with Chronic Tacos in 2010. When they help finance the chain’s expansion into Canada, after seeing the potential that the brand had for growth, they decided to take over the entire franchise a 2012 and haven’t looked back ever since. Michael is involved with every aspect of its vision brand and strategy. Hey, Randy, and Michael, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?
Michael Mohammed 2:16
We’re doing great. Thanks for having us.
Randy Wyner 2:18
Chad Franzen 2:19
Thank you. Hey, great to have you. Hey, so Randy, tell me a little bit more about how and when Chronic Tacos came about. I know it was 20 years ago.
Randy Wyner 2:27
Yeah. 20. Okay, hold on. Let me think about it. Okay. I remember now. So yeah, 20 years ago, I was living in Newport Beach. And there was no really good, like authentic taquería. There was no, you know, not even a mom and pops, really, it was about a mile away. So I would ride my bike over to this, you know, the most authentic Mexican vibe over there. And I remember the tortillas were in that great. And I remember saying to the guy, man, we need to get some some better tortillas and he got really mad at me. So I said, you know, one day I’m gonna open up my own taco shop. And this little spot was available. It came available right across the street from my house. And it was 800 square feet. Never been in the restaurant business. And I said, we gotta grab this. And we’re gonna call it Chronic Tacos. I called up the Bonilla is I got recipes from the family. And, you know, we brought Chronic Tacos, the first Chronic Tacos to Newport Beach. And yeah, 20 years ago, we opened July 2 of 2002. There was a real need for it. And people were like, why, you know, chronic, and we wanted to be different and do something different outside the box. And people were like, Oh, what are these gringos, you know, going to be making tacos but they didn’t know that the Bonez were third generation recipes from Mexico. So these gringos had some good recipes. And, you know, when we opened it was funny people, you know, we weren’t crazy busy at first it was just kind of opened up and people were coming in and you know, the word started spreading a word of mouth and then we got written up. Back then there was newspapers, and we got written up in a newspaper. And the next day, we had lines wrapped around the building we had old folks young folks like we always say they say like, what’s your demographic? I’m all two to eight. And like it was a whole nother generation came in when they read this newspaper ad and it really took off after that things people were driving from Riverside from LA to Orange County for Chronic Tacos and and that’s when I was like wow, we should start maybe opening a couple more of these and then we get into opening up more locations but you know, the first one they just there was a real need in that little area for a good authentic you know, taco shop and we kind of went off the the kind of serve vibe music plan and real casual, come in, make it how you like it. You know, I’m a real picky eater, so I want to make it I like it. I always hate it when restaurants won’t let me change stuff. So that was a real big thing for us was, you know, your style your way.
Chad Franzen 5:09
That’s a That’s a great story. So you you had I was going to ask you you had if you had prior restaurant experience you didn’t. What had you been doing up until that point? And what? I guess what kind of gave you the confidence that you could just take the restaurant industry?
Randy Wyner 5:23
Yeah, so I had heavy restaurant experience. I was a host at Marie Calendars when I was 17. So no restaurant experience. I was a host for a few months and I became I was a waiter at Marie Calendars for a little bit part-time. So I have had zero restaurant experience, what I was doing at the time, we owned a company called chronic industries, and we were a licensee for Disney and for Mattel, and I did all their hats. I was in the clothing business. So we had a factory and we would do bo t cats for Disney and Mattel and I was a licensee for many, many years. And we did screen printing for big brands Rip Curl, Volcom, a lot of surf brands and a lot of their screen printing for their marketing and stuff. So was in the clothing business before the tacos.
Chad Franzen 6:12
Okay, was that an entrepreneurial experience? Or was that just you were an employee?
Randy Wyner 6:16
Entrepreneurial. We I opened it started it sold T-shirts out of the trunk of my car when I was 19 years old.
Chad Franzen 6:22
Oh, nice. So you weren’t you were kind of an entrepreneur entrepreneur already?
Randy Wyner 6:25
Yeah, my first company I ever had was, I started a company called our in our valet for Nordstroms. And I was 20. About 20 years old, 1920 years old. And I was that was my first company. So yes, always been entrepreneurial.
Chad Franzen 6:40
So you’re you guys started out with a with a bang for Chronic Tacos really took off? Tell me a little bit about how it evolved from there maybe the next few years?
Randy Wyner 6:48
Yeah. So two years later. We’re like, we’re getting a lot of calls people wanting to open up more to or wanted to, like buy a taco shop. And you know, at that time, I knew really nothing about franchising. I knew the licensing world, but franchising is a lot different. So, you know, we I said, let’s open up a second store and see how it takes off. Because I think that’s the big challenge is can you do? Can you replicate this, you know, restaurants is really hard business. And if you can replicate it, then maybe we can have something here. So we opened up and I thought the best thing would be opening up in the city next to us because a lot of people from Huntington Beach were coming over to Newport to get tacos. So we opened up a a spa in Huntington Beach two years later. And it wasn’t on like Main Street, it was it was a very non-traditional building and smack in a neighborhood, you know, like, there was a liquor store across the street, but very, you know, very residential area. And we took, we took a stab at it and opened that store up and it had a line wrapped around the building of the day we opened, it was crazy. And that stores been there, you know, 18 years, 18 years now. And it’s, it’s a great spot, good store, we really gained a lot of the residential. You know, people over there loved it, because they could walk to us and not have to go over to Main Street. But that was it. And then after that one opened, you know, we opened up one more in Corona del Mar. And it did really well. And that’s when we were getting tons of calls about opening and expanding. And I said let’s look into franchising this and back then I’m like, I want this to be worldwide. I wanted someone you know, back then chronic was like, oh gosh, you know is like what is chronic. And I’m like one day it’s going to be I’ll be at the dinner table and it’ll be a family or family will be at dinner table and they’ll say oh, I want to go get Chronic Tacos. And that was my dream back at 20 plus years ago was one day it’ll be a household name Chronic Tacos, the whole family will go and eat them and we’ll be worldwide and now we’re there.
Chad Franzen 8:51
So I read that you guys that you and Michael met around 2010 What was kind of the what was kind of your status around that time Randy and then and then also kind of where where where Chronic Tacos was around that time.
Randy Wyner 9:06
So we were expanding and I met Mike in Canada he was financing our franchisee up there and I asked her what I wanted to meet you know the Mohammed’s and so we met at at the Chronic Tacos in Canada on Broadway. And Mike came in you know, trench coats all I was like these guys are rad you know, it was pretty sweet. Yeah. And we hit it off right away. And so we talked about like doing other taco shops together and other things and then you know there Mike always said hey, I my brothers and I would always be interested in like the main the big picture, you know, not just opening up one or two taco shops but really going into the corporate side of it and taking this to the next level. And and I’d like cool Yeah, okay. And, you know, a few months later that an opportunity came up where you know, I wanted to, you know, bring in the Mohammed’s and and Expand and go big and I called Mike on a, I don’t know, maybe a Friday or a Saturday. And I said, Hey, Mike and I was up in Canada all the time doing, you know, opening up stores, we were just starting to we opened up one, I think we were about to open up a second one. And I called him like, Hey, I’m in Canada, I got an opportunity. We got to talk about it right away. He’s like, I could be at my office tomorrow. So we met on a Sunday, right? A Sunday in, in Mike’s van in the Mohammed’s via Vancouver office. And we sat and kind of just I told him, Hey, there could be an opportunity here. I think we should, you know, move on this. And Mike’s like, I’m interested in, I think he was on a plane to California, probably within a week. Yeah, yeah, that a week. And then we, we started, Mike started doing his due diligence to come in and partner up and take the company to the next level. Very nice. That’s how, and then we and then the whole process of the buying chronic and the due diligence, we became best friends. We were together for morning tonight, you know, going through everything, the bad, the ugly, the good, you know, and it was it was, it was a learning and fun experience for me, and I’m blessed to have them in my life and, and to have them here with us Chronic Tacos, because it’s been amazing.
Chad Franzen 11:16
That’s awesome. So Mike, you’ve been there for, you know, a decade now or more, what made what made this an attractive opportunity for you at that time?
Michael Mohammed 11:28
You know, I really liked the brand. So when we first tried the food, we got introduced to the brand, I guess you just feel right away, there’s something unique about the brand. And then when I met Randy, I could see that there is that personality behind the brand. And, and there was a unique creation of the brand and, and a great opportunity. But like any business, you know, there’s there’s always areas that can be improved. And we felt that it was more on the strategic side to grow, you needed to make it scalable, there wasn’t a lot of infrastructure behind there wasn’t, you know, Randy would go out and train guys, and everything was in his head, and we needed to kind of unload that unpack that so that we could, could grow it and be more strategic about our marketing and our branding. You know, it was, it was a, there was a lot of potential there and really believed in that. And like he said, we spent probably three or four months putting the deal together, you know, as these deals go, and there’s ups and downs, it almost doesn’t close, you know, you’re almost, you know, had enough not gonna move forward. But, you know, we really had to push right, it was, you know, seven days a week really grinding it out, because we wanted to come in, when we came in, you know, ready to go out of the gate. So we had, you know, while we were working the deal, we were also kind of setting ourselves up and what we needed to do in the future.
Chad Franzen 12:55
Sure. So what was your kind of your first order of business?
Michael Mohammed 12:59
First order of business was to, you know, what we decided is that, you know, at the time, I think we were at about 25-26 taco shops, and we decided to just pull back from franchising, we just felt that, like, we’ve got to get more to find on our buildouts were strategic on where we want to be lineup our distribution, build out our training manuals, build out our operations manuals, you know, refine the branding. So there was a lot of work we wanted to do, we built, you know, several restaurants on the corporate side just to test different things and, and really, you know, get that dialed in. So we probably spent two years doing that. And then when we were ready, we felt we had it, then we started folk changing our focus to franchising.
Chad Franzen 13:52
So this is a question for either one of you. How would you say it? What would you say are maybe the some of the primary ways that Chronic Tacos has evolved or changed? Since Michael came on board? Mike came on board.
Michael Mohammed 14:06
You know, I think that anytime that you’re you’re you’re making changes to you can almost overshoot sometimes. So like, you know, we came in we brought a lot of corporate culture into the, into the company and, and in some ways, I think, initially, we almost overshot that you need to say, Okay, well, we’re not, you’re trying to satisfy everybody. And you need to sometimes pull that back and say, like, well, this is who we are, and this is what makes us successful. So we’ve kind of gone through that, that phase of that where it’s, you know, reverting back to this is what makes it successful, but we need the tools to implement that. So I think really where we are from then to now is that we’ve really implemented the tools the and really gotten more strategic about it, which I think is important, but we also have refocused on like who we are as a brand It