In this exclusive Q&A, we will be learning about California Tortilla from its president, Bob Phillips.
Franchise Chatter (FC): What is California Tortilla?
Bob Phillips (BP): California Tortilla is a Mexican-inspired fast-casual restaurant concept. We say inspired because our menu is rooted in traditional Mexican cuisine but we bring in flavors from around the world to provide our guests with imaginative flavor combinations and a truly unique experience they won’t find anywhere else.
At California Tortilla we also believe that fresh ingredients make a big difference. We use farm-fresh, never frozen ingredients. Our restaurants don’t even have freezers! Everything is hand-prepared, on-site, in small batches throughout the day, and our customers can really taste the difference.
FC: Tell us more about the menu offerings that make California Tortilla so unique.
BP: We have over 25 chef-created dishes that guests can choose from – including everything from burritos, bowls, tacos, quesadillas, nachos, salads, and more. Some of the most popular dishes feature our signature, made-from-scratch sauces like our Honey Lime and California Screamin’ Burritos and our Bacon Chicken Club and Korean BBQ Tacos.
FC: Are guests able to personalize or create their own dishes?
BP: While there is a set menu to order from and we do not follow the “assembly-line” style of ordering, every dish can be tailored to each individual’s liking. Want to substitute chicken for farm-fresh veggies or add avocado and fresh jalapenos? No problem. We give our customers the best of both worlds by offering chef-created dishes that can also be personalized.
Guests can modify dishes even further at our “Wall-of-Flame.” We have an entire wall featuring 75 distinct hot sauces ranging from mild to tongue-melting, allowing guests to customize the flavor and spiciness of their meal as well. We know people have varying opinions on hot sauces, so we leave that part up to them.
FC: The fast-casual industry is a crowded market. How is California Tortilla standing out?
BP: We regularly hear from our customers that our innovative menu completely separates us from the pack. Our 25 chef-created recipes fuse together unexpected ingredients from around the world, allowing us to provide guests with a flavor-filled dining experience. We say, California Tortilla is Mexican cuisine for adventurous palates.
Plus, we use fresh, high-quality ingredients, such as all white-meat chicken breast, grass-fed beef, Roma tomatoes, and Hass avocados. We hand-smash our guacamole, freshly dice our salsa, and make sauces from scratch every morning, noon, and night.
FC: Let’s talk franchising. When did California Tortilla begin to franchise?
BP: In 2002, my partner, Keith Goldman, and I opened our first California Tortilla and absolutely fell in love with the concept. We were familiar with franchising, and both knew it would be an ideal concept to franchise. We sold our first franchise in 2005 and have since grown throughout the Mid-Atlantic and internationally.
FC: You mentioned you were familiar with the world of franchising. What is your background?
BP: I have over 30 years of restaurant franchise experience under my belt. I initially purchased a yogurt franchise at age 24 and have since operated everything from ice cream shops to pizza parlors.
FC: How many locations does California Tortilla currently operate?
BP: California Tortilla currently has 50 locations across D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, Florida, and Pennsylvania. We also have two locations in Qatar.
FC: Tell us about the future of California Tortilla. Any expansion plans?
BP: We have grown successfully throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, and now, we’re looking to expand outside of our core market to bring our bold flavors to people across the United States. We expect to open 10 new units over the next year and grow to 100 units in three years.
Some of our top markets for growth include North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Ohio, but we’re confident our restaurant concept will be received well in any new market.
FC: What kind of support does California Tortilla provide franchisees?
BP: Keith and I have operated restaurant franchises together in the past, so we know what it’s like to be the franchisees. With that experience, we operate California Tortilla with a franchisee-centric mindset.
We set up a four-week comprehensive training program for our new franchisees. In addition, we provide hands-on support before, during, and after the restaurant opens. But it doesn’t stop there. Franchisees receive continuous support throughout their ownership.
We’ll visit each restaurant monthly to share the best practices in business to help maximize profitability, and we’ll have open and honest conversations with our owners, getting feedback and suggestions on how to make our business better.
FC: Who is California Tortilla’s ideal franchisee?
BP: Ideally, we are looking for those with experience in the fast-casual restaurant industry, but beyond that, a true passion for the restaurant industry. We look for individuals that are committed to amplifying brand awareness throughout the market and for building and leading a team. Our best franchisees are hands-on owners that believe that a great team is required in order to provide great food and service.
FC: What is the typical investment to open a California Tortilla?
BP: The cost ranges between $412,700 and $708,800.
FC: How can someone learn more about franchise opportunities with California Tortilla?
BP: Visit our website at franchise.californiatortilla.com/.