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TEXARKANA, TX-A 30-year restaurant veteran is gearing up to spread Taco Bueno restaurants throughout Central Texas, the Rio Grande Valley and Las Cruces, NM. The franchisee plans to add 48 locations in the next six years at an estimated cost of $50 million to $65 million.

EatDrink LLC has already opened Taco Bueno restaurants at 5630 Saratoga Blvd. in Corpus Christi; 2319 Interstate 35 South in San Marcus; and 8311 Texas 151 in San Antonio. Three more are scheduled to open in Austin, Round Rock and New Braunfels by the end of this year.

“We’ll have eight more completed in 2008 and we’re working right now on deals for 2009,” says Bill Spae, managing partner of EatDrink, which has an exclusive developer’s agreement with Taco Bueno to expand in the Central Texas and Rio Grande Valley markets.

Spae, former president of Bennigan’s Restaurant and Steak & Ale, acknowledges he was a fan of Taco Bueno for many years, which is one reason why he decided to become a franchisee. “The brand isn’t in any of these locations. You have a wide-open market,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “I’m always amazed by how many e-mails, phone calls and letters we get when we mention we’re opening a Bueno in a particular area.”

Andrew Scroggie, vice president in Austin for Dallas-based Weitzman Group, says the Taco Bueno criteria are high-traffic areas with a high retail presence and median household incomes exceeding $40,000 per year. “We like stand-alone pads, either through a ground lease or purchase. The buildings are about 2,600 sf and should support a drive-through,” Scroggie says. Restaurant construction typically takes three to six months. The Weitzman team is looking for additional locations.

Spae has added the Las Cruces market to his territory although another franchisee has the remainder of the state. Even so, Spae has no inclination to go further. “We want to try to keep this as Texas-based as we can,” he adds. “With as many restaurants as we’re planning, we’ll have plenty to do.”

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