A lot has changed and a lot of tacos served since the original Fuzzy's Taco Shop opened near the Texas Christian University campus over 16 years ago.
The latest change comes in the form of Michael Mabry, who will be the company’s first chief development officer, Fuzzy's Taco Shop announced April 17.
Mabry's hiring completes a shake-up of the company leadership, where three more executives took up new posts in the last four months. Kevin Rychel was promoted to vice president of operations. Samir Wattar is the new vice president of supply chain and Laura Purser is now vice president of marketing.
“We’re excited to build the team in a way that aligns with our steadfast vision to support our franchisees, their team members, and Fuzzy’s passionate guests,” Mel Knight, president of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, said in a statement.
There are 135 Fuzzy's locations throughout the country. Of those, 11 are owned by the company and the rest are franchises. The company expects to open about 24 new locations this year. Its expansion plan includes almost 80 new restaurants in the next three years.
Mabry and his 30 years of experience in the food service industry will take on the challenge of managing all the forecast growth at the fast-casual Baja-style Mexican restaurant chain.
“We’re fortunate to have Michael on our team and look forward to his leadership as we continue to drive growth,” Knight said. “He brings experience across all aspects of our business, and, more importantly, aligns with our passion and commitment to putting the interests of our franchisees first.”
Mabry formerly was the president and chief operating officer of Plano-based Mooyah Burgers, Fries and Shakes. He spoke to Fort Worth Business Press about his new job and plans to grow the Fuzzy's Taco brand.
What made you want to join Fuzzy's Taco Shop?
I've been a customer of Fuzzy's for over a decade. I've always been passionate about the brand and really loved what they did over the past few years. I've always had a friendly relationship with the president, Mel Knight. Mel and I started talking six or some months ago. The opportunity arose for me to join the team, so I jumped on it.
What does your new role, chief development officer, entail?
The role is really responsible for the development of the brand. Currently, our development strategy is to attract the best franchises, potential franchisees out in the marketplace. Then assist them with the real estate selections and then assist them with the construction of those restaurants.
As the new leadership comes in, should we expect any changes to the Fuzzy's brand?
With the team that's been assembled, the idea was to bring on tenured restaurant franchise professionals to help and support our current and future franchisees. So, I wouldn't necessarily say that there's going to be changes. I'd say we are going to evolve our business systems to better support franchisees. We are a franchise-centric business and everything we do is for their success.
What do you think the Fuzzy's Taco brand means to its customers?
On the consumers' side, the Fuzzy's brand is really for anyone who's hungry. Who doesn't like tacos? We're a very unassuming, come-as-you-are restaurant. Whether you show up with your flip-flops and a T-shirt or a bathing suit on, or if you come in after work for one of our Fuzzy 'ritas with your suit jacket on, all are welcome. The food itself lends it to all of those demographics. We're a very value-driven brand.
Where does Fuzzy's Taco Shop stand as far as marketing is concerned?
We are centralized in the Dallas-Fort Worth marketplace. But we've got restaurants in 17 or so states. We got 150 open. But what we really want to do is take a look at where we're successful and grow out from those centers. So Texas and surrounding states are great markets for us. Florida's a great market for us. Colorado is a great market for us.
Moving forward, how do you plan to keep the laid-back, local vibe found at Fuzzy's Taco Shop intact?
It's all through the culture. The culture of our company is just that vibe, that Baja feel, that laid-back, come-as-you-are vibe. And it really starts with our president. It is not something that is up for discussion. What we have to do is bolster and support what that current culture and vibe are.
What do you regularly eat at Fuzzy's Taco?
My go-to deal — just had it last night for dinner — is two shredded chicken tacos on soft corn tortillas, rice and beans, chips and queso.