COVID-19 no match for Backyard Taco’s continued growth The Chandler Arizonan

COVID-19 no match for Backyard Taco’s continued growth

COVID-19 no match for Backyard Taco’s continued growth
Business
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ARIZONAN NEWS STAFF

Even COVID-19 can’t beat a good taco.

At least that seems to explain how Backyard Taco has been able to continue its rapid expansion through the East Valley, with its fourth location ready to open in Chandler this week and a groundbreaking expected soon for another in Queen Creek.

The new location at 2400 S. Gilbert Rd., between Germann and Queen Creek, is the first Backyard Taco in Chandler. It joins two in Mesa and another in Gilbert.

“This Chandler store has been planned well over a year now and before COVID came along,” said Dr. Tyler Robison, who owns Backyard Taco along with Ruben and Marisela Alvarez and Steve Beck.

“Even with COVID, we always have thought this would be a transient thing since regardless, people always seem to want high quality, inexpensive and delicious tacos,” Robison said.

Besides, in some ways the pandemic has spurred their business.

“We have realized that due to COVID, most travel plans have been curtailed, leaving many more people here for the long hot summer than usual,” Robison said. “Those same people are tired of being cooped up at home I think and going out to eat is a way to break up the monotony and enjoy life a bit.”

“The last few months we have been blessed immensely as our business has actually surprisingly been up an average of about 25 percent over last year,” he added, relieved they were able to make a comeback from a sharp plummet in customers during the initial weeks of the pandemic.

That can-do attitude toward a pandemic pretty much defines Backyard Taco’s genesis and growth.

None of the owners have a pedigree in the industry.

Ruben was a concrete worker and painter, Beck a commercial real estate agent and developer and Robison is an orthodontist.

“But we have all worked together, used the skills we each possessed and have been blessed to make this little venture a pretty exciting success,” Robison boasted.

It also helped that before they opened their first brick-and-mortar restaurant in December 2012 on University Drive in Mesa, he added, the four owners “had already established a cult-like following for several years in the Alvarezes’ backyard in west Mesa.”

Mazatlan, Mexico, natives Ruben and Maricela had started making tacos in their backyard seven years before the first eatery was opened.

Word spread to the point that sometimes there was a mile-long line of taco enthusiasts waiting to get into their backyard.

Even after they went brick-and-mortar, Backyard Taco owners were still learning.

“When we started out, honestly our biggest concern was how do we deal with all these people flooding our stores,” Robison recalled. “We were quite ill prepared for the crushing crowds and learned so much from our first two stores.”

“I think our success can be summed up …with the line about offering high quality, inexpensive and delicious authentic Mexican food,” said Robison, who with his partners talk about achieving “Mexellence” in their menu of street tacos with mesquite-grilled meats and vegetables and homemade salsas.

“Everything is our restaurant is made fresh daily in house and nothing is frozen,” he said.

The food also is affordable: the tacos are all under $3 and the most expensive items are $9.60.

The owners are excited about their new Chandler location, calling that city a natural for their expansion because “Chandler is a vibrant, thriving and growing community.”

The new location, like two of the other three will have a drive-thru, which Robison also credits as a saving feature when in-house dining was not allowed for two months earlier this year.

Backyard Taco is located at 1420 S. Higley Road, Gilbert and at 1633 S. Stapley Drive and 1524 E. University Drive in Mesa. The Chandler store opens tomorrow, Sept. 21. Information: backyardtaco.com.

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