Taco Del Mar franchisee gets fresh start after business goes stale
by Robert Strachan
After initial success as a franchisee of Taco Del Mar in Mount Royal’s Wyckham House foodcourt, entrepreneur Shawn Grewal began facing a huge financial loss. With the possibility of losing everything, Grewal ended his relationship with the American burrito franchise as he grew unhappy with diminishing corporate support. Since then, he’s come back to Mount Royal University to open another Mexican fast food restaurant.
In 2011, Grewal plans to open a Mucho Burrito location in Wyckham House. “One thing that I kick myself for is not really knowing the effects of corporate,” Grewal said. “Strong corporate structure really has a lot of say in your specific store.”
In Sept. 2008, Grewal opened a Taco Del Mar in the newly renovated expansion of Wyckham House. According to Grewal, the concept was a hit with the students and faculty on the ground level. However, product quality suffered when the chain started expanding too quickly.
Grewal said he insists on quality, value and consistency, so he was not impressed when Taco Del Mar started providing him with lower quality products. Regular customers began complaining and he even began discouraging people from purchasing.
“I don’t want to see a student spend $8 on a shit burrito, excuse my language, but it’s true,” Grewal said. “It just kind of killed me, but on a certain level, I have to think of myself as a business operator.”
Grewal had other complaints about Taco Del Mar as well. “I thought, hey, my market is my market,” he said. “I am in a college food court, so I shouldn’t be worried about Taco Del Mar not advertising, not promoting the product and whatnot.
“Did I ever learn in an expensive way.” Grewal sought support from the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University, and they set the ball in motion to make a change. After looking at his options, Grewal found Canada’s Mucho Burrito to be the best way of keeping his investment.
“It is really the redefining of a concept,” said Jason Unsworth, director of business services for the students’ association. “At the end of the day the most important thing for the Mount Royal community is people getting what they want.
Before being elected mayor, Naheed Nenshi taught Grewal at the University of Calgary. Nenshi used the “burrito business model,” citing the need for quality Mexican fast food.
“For some years now, I have been using this as an example in my marketing classes,” said Nenshi when Taco Del Mar first opened in Wyckham House. “It just seemed to be a really interesting niche that wasn’t being very well-filled in the Calgary market or anywhere in Canada.”
Grewal said he’ll continue trying to prove Calgary has a market for quality Mexican food.
Mucho Burrito is expected to be open in January.