Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, the Texas-based Baja-style restaurant group that opened its first location in 2003 near TCU, has announced its new concept, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop Taqueria.
Fuzzy’s Taqueria will open its first location in Minneapolis, a new market for the brand which has nearly 150 franchise- and corporate-owned locations in 16 states (17, when Minnesota opens).
Plans for the new footprint began prior to the pandemic, as Fuzzy’s Taco Shop noticed a continued shift of dining to off-premise. Then, when the pandemic hit, it reinforced the need for a model that would allow flexibility for restaurant partners and new franchisees.
“As real estate opportunities became available over the last year, we realized we didn’t want to limit our franchisees to the traditional Fuzzy’s model with larger square footage requirements,” says Jessica Wescott, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Irving-based Fuzzy’s Taco Shop.
A traditional Fuzzy’s Taco Shop unit is between 3,000-4,000 square feet, while the Fuzzy’s Taqueria will typically operate within 1,200-1,800 square-foot spaces.
“At the same time, we understood from a consumer perspective this new footprint needed to be branded differently,” said Wescott. “It was important to keep the overall Fuzzy’s vibe our guests have come to love and trust with our great food, cold drinks and Baja feel, but also make the Taqueria a little different to showcase the reduced menu and a more take-out driven focus.”
Fuzzy’s first opportunity to test this model came when Minneapolis-based commercial real estate broker Peter Fitzgerald and restaurant operator Ed Pittsley approached the brand with a 1,100 square-foot location for a Fuzzy’s within North Loop in Minneapolis.
“Just as we were starting to get serious about looking for a location in the Twin Cities the pandemic hit, but we knew we wanted to bring Fuzzy’s to Minneapolis,” said Fitzgerald. “We collaborated with the Fuzzy’s team to work on a concept that would fit really well in a post-pandemic environment, and that, of course, was the Taqueria.”
The Fuzzy’s Taqueria in the North Loop will open on the ground floor of the Loose-Wiles building at 701 Washington Avenue this April. The historic North Loop has become one of the city’s most vibrant and walkable neighborhoods, with award-winning restaurants and boutiques, bustling taprooms, live music and Major League Baseball just steps away.
“We really have the best of both worlds with people living and working in the vicinity. We are optimistic the Fuzzy’s brand will resonate with those in the area looking for affordable, approachable, fast casual dining,” said Pittsley. “The future of dining is as much off-premise as it is in the restaurant, so this new footprint works perfectly to serve the needs for the neighborhood.”
The goal of Fuzzy’s Taqueria’s simplified menu is to be operationally-friendly and easily executed in a strong off-premise market. The menu will feature Fuzzy’s most popular items, such as queso and made-in-house guacamole and fire-roasted salsa, as well as main staples including Baja tacos, breakfast tacos, burritos, nachos, quesadillas, salads, traditional sides, and drinks. Additionally, margaritas and beer will be available at all Taqueria locations, with the option to take them to-go in the markets where it is legal to do so.
“The most important factor with this new opportunity was maintaining the Fuzzy’s experience while keeping true to ourselves and what has earned us our cult-like following over the years,” said Mel Knight, President of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop.
“This new footprint will offer more flexibility and we are looking forward to expanding the Fuzzy’s Taqueria brand,” he continues. “We are already talking to interested partners and existing franchisees who are equally excited about this option.”