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For Immediate Release
Barbara Caruso

Is There a Taco War Headed Our Way?
No. 2 Mexican Restaurant Chain Eyes Chicago

(Lake Forest, CA) June, 2005 – For years, Chicago has had its burger, pizza and hot dog "wars," but now the area is the site for what could become the next "taco war" - a battle for supremacy among the biggest players in the Mexican fast-food niche.

Long-time Chicago-area real estate developers Mark Kinnare and Patrick Riccobene have signed a deal to open 10 Del Taco restaurants under the name Illinois Del, Inc. Two restaurants are slated to open within the next six months - one in Algonquin and another in Orland Park.

California-based Del Taco is the nation's No. 2 Mexican quick-service chain serving more than 3 million customers each week. Del Taco has opened 15 new restaurants this year and its first upper Midwest location will open later this month in Dearborn Heights, MI.

This new franchisee is the first of an expected dozen or so franchise groups who will fill out the Chicago market, reported Marc Mushkin, Del Taco’s senior director of franchising. Another franchisee is currently developing a new restaurant in the Rockford, IL, area that is expected to open in early 2006.

“Our research shows that consumers in Chicago are hungry for something new in the Mexican quick serve category. We expect Del Taco to be well received there and are excited to have such quality franchisees to bring our brand to this important market,” said Mushkin.

"This is exciting news for us and for fast-food fans looking for a fabulous alternative in Mexican food," said Mark Kinnare. "We've long had only one major player in this category and we think there's a market for another - especially one of the caliber of Del Taco."

As a business, Kinnare said Del Taco is appealing because it has the highest sales volume of any Mexican quick-service restaurant; its average unit volume (of nearly $1.2 million) is significantly higher than the No. 1 chain in its category.

"We found Del Taco to be better and different from anything else out there," he said. "Likewise, we think lovers of fast-food, especially of the Mexican variety, will find that Del Taco is better and different from anything else that's available."

The 41-year-old chain offers menu items that appeal to a broad range of tastes with a strong emphasis on quality and value. The menu includes Mexican offerings of tacos, burritos, quesadillas and nachos as well as American favorites like hamburgers, fries and milk shakes. Each item is made to order only when the customer orders it with many quality ingredients including lard-free beans made from scratch daily, real cheddar cheese grated on site, chicken grilled fresh every hour, hand-made salsa and fresh produce.

Recently, Del Taco added the Crispy Fish Taco to its menu and it immediately became one of the chain's biggest selling items, with more than 6 million sold since February. “The Crispy Fish Taco is still rocking,” explained Joe Senger, vice president of marketing at Del Taco.

"The Crispy Fish Taco is an example of the kind of innovation in fast-food you don't see on a regular basis," Kinnare said.

Del Taco restaurants combine an eclectic world of architecture, building design and decorating into a lively, cantina-like Mexican diner with an inviting atmosphere.
The exterior of Del Taco restaurants feature a mixture of stucco walls and an unusually expansive use of glass, "so the energy flows from inside out and people can see what's going on," Kinnare said. "We think this design is going to attract a lot of attention from people looking for something new and fun in fast food."

Also outside are backlit canopies, barrel tile entrances and colorful patios surrounded with small, intimate footlights. Fun, neon graphics in the windows depict unique product offerings like Del Taco's popular Macho Burritos, signature menu items featuring more than a pound of food.

Inside, customers will find an eclectic array of elements ranging from hand-painted graphic art to high tech design. "The furniture is completely different from what you'd expect to find, with playful, new twists in color and comfort," Kinnare said. Rather than stainless steel stanchions, a whimsical, curvy pipe and joint system indicate queuing at the order counter with a slanted menu board overhead. Likewise, ceiling fans are hung with brightly colored conduit pipes. The interior's walls are uniquely textured with hand-painted confetti and streamers -- all to reinforce a festive experience for the customer. Ceilings are exposed, opening to girders and the roof deck, rather than covered in acoustical tile.

"You're not going to find in a Del Taco the uninspiring environments you find in most fast-food outlets," Kinnare said.

Del Taco is a privately held company that operates or franchises more than 445 Mexican quick service restaurant locations throughout the United States. The company has been on an aggressive campaign to grow beyond its Southern California roots. In 2004 the company added six new franchise groups for a total of 32 new restaurants and has signed development agreements for another 16 units so far in 2005. In addition to Detroit, new markets include Idaho, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico and Colorado.


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