That ooey-gooey deep-fried envelop of beef that has made Jack in the Box tacos famous with many fans — or infamous with others — could soon be showing up in a Wyoming drive-thru near you.
Jack in the Box has announced the signing of 123 new restaurant commitments, which will include entry into four new markets — Wyoming, Arkansas, Florida and Montana — as well as 22 new restaurants in Mexico.
Jack in the Box has also announced 138 new restaurant commitments for a sister franchise, Del Taco, that will include entry into three new states. Those include Wyoming, Texas and Montana, as well as 52 new stores in Florida.
The expansions are riding on the coattails of what Jack in the Box says have been record profits in 2023.
“The response in new markets, for both brands, has continued to exceed our expectations,” Jack in the Box Chief Development Officer Tim Linderman said in a media release. “We have developed a strong playbook for how to best open and sustain new market entry.
“We’ve been on an incredible roll since our development program started in 2021, and our 2023 results demonstrated that our momentum has continued.”
Locations for the state’s first Jack in the Box and Del Taco franchises haven’t been announced.
What A Difference A Couple Decades Make
Jack in the Box was not always doing as well as it is today.
There was a tragic outbreak of E. coli in 1993, traced to contaminated burgers at 73 restaurants in California, Idaho, Washington and Nevada. Several hundred people became ill in those states, many of them children younger than 10.
Some 178 children were left with permanent injuries like kidney and brain damage, and four children died, including 16-month-old Riley Detwiler.
Detwiler’s parents made a public plea during an electronic town hall held by then-President Bill Clinton to make changes to the U.S. meat inspection system.
As a result of the outbreak, federal standards were eventually changed to require all hamburgers to be cooked to 155 degrees, instead of 140.
Sales at Jack in the Box cratered, leading to hundreds of layoffs and delayed store openings.
To recover, the restaurant hired a leading food safety expert and enacted a much stricter food safety protocol. It also offered steep discounts and employed an aggressive marketing and public relations strategy, including changing the name to try to win back customers.
The name change didn’t stick, and company officials quickly changed it back. But the aggressive marketing continued with the hiring of Dick Sittig’s Secret Weapon Marketing to help remake the restaurant’s image.
He developed a series of advertising campaigns with oddball humor targeting a young male demographic. The ads featured a fictional company CEO named Jack Box — human from the neck down, but topped by a huge cartoon-clown head.
By 1995, Jack in the Box was rebounding, growing its revenue to $1 billion from a near complete death.
Here Comes Del Taco
Jack in the Box first started diversifying its fast-food chains in 2003 by purchasing the fast-casual Mexican chain Qdoba for $45 million.
When traffic at those stores fell abruptly in the wake of pricy avocados, Jack in the Box unloaded Qdoba quickly, selling it to Apollo Global Management for $305 million.
But in 2022, just five years after ditching Qdoba, it bought 600 Del Taco joints for $585 million. Del Taco had made a name for itself in the 1960s with fast, fresh food prepared at really low prices.
It launched a dollar menu in 2020, although these days, that menu has transitioned to a value meal approach that lists 20 items less than $2.
The chain offers a range of Mexican food, as well as burgers and fries. It even has vegetarian options.
What it’s really well-known for in Reddit chat rooms and other social media platforms, though, are its secret menu items. For example, using the code words “go bold” will add fries to any menu item for a small upcharge.
To be clear, the fries aren’t served on the side. They’re tucked inside whatever was ordered, be that a taco, a burrito, a burger or even a milkshake.
Del Taco is celebrating its 60th anniversary, and has already announced some new items in celebration of that, among them a beer-battered crispy fish taco and a new Double Strawberry Lemonade Popper beverage that comes with boba pearls.
The fish taco was the product of a collaboration with Stone Brewing, using the brewer’s Stone Buenaveza Salt & Lime Lager.
Del Taco Senior Vice President of Marketing Sarah McAloon said the company plans more products to celebrate the anniversary.
“Del Taco is the first Mexican QSR brand to partner with Stone Brewing to up level our popular fish tacos to please new and old fans alike,” she said in a media release. “As we are in our 60th year in business, Del Taco is committed to continuing our legacy of serving fresh flavors and high-quality ingredients.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.