Spin Cycle

One Small Step

Franchising targets Small Town USA.

By Elaine W. Teague

Less is definitely more--at least for the new Small Town Development Program at Taco John's International Inc. Franchising mainly in big cities since 1969, Taco John's is now capitalizing on a niche often ignored by well-established quick-serve chains: Small Town USA.

Targeting towns with populations of 5,000 to 10,000, the Cheyenne, Wyoming-based franchisor is offering new franchisees a small-sized store with a full-sized menu--and a significant draw: startup costs roughly 40 percent lower than a traditional site.

The first franchisee in the program is Paul Sullivan of St. Joseph, Minnesota, who opened his doors last summer. He was given latitude by Taco John's to operate dual businesses side by side. "There's a single door," explains Sullivan, "with a video store on the left and Taco John's on the right."

Serving townsfolk numbering 4,000 and a college population of roughly the same size, Sullivan's dual-concept store also draws commuters from nearby Highway 75. It's an ideal location, one Sullivan had his eye on for four years before it became available.

"[The area has] been served by a plethora of pizza places, but nothing else really," says Sullivan. "I'm only the second fast-food business to move into the area."

Taco John's hopes to see 10 to 15 small-town openings this year.

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This article was originally published in the April 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Spin Cycle.

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