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These "French Tacos" Were a Sensation In Europe, But Flopped in the U.S. What Went Wrong?

The French franchise O'Tacos is rapidly expanding across Europe, but failed to find its footing with its first outpost in the U.S. What should its fellow foreign companies know about coming to the U.S.? And how can American partners profit from their unique ideas?

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This story appears in the July 2021 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

What American fast-food connoisseur wouldn’t love a massive tortilla pouch packed with meat, oozy cheese, and fistfuls of fries? Overseas, “French tacos” are all the rage. The category is now just behind pizza and burgers across all delivery platforms in France, where Paris-based O’Tacos is gobbling up more than its share of the QSR market. Introduced in 2011 by two brothers in Bordeaux who were soon joined by a drywaller from Grenoble, O’Tacos has grown to 280 units across France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Germany, with annual revenue surpassing $300 million. O’Tacos grand openings —­ often celebratory events featuring French rap stars and Instagram influencers — are occurring in France reportedly at a faster rate than McDonald’s. Fans line up for hours to get their hands on the beefed-up poutine in a wrap.

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“In the beginning, it was a product that was very popular in the suburbs,” says Patrick Pelonero, the drywaller turned cofounder, though he means “suburbs” in the French sense, a more urban, working-class setting than the American definition. (We spoke through a translator.) “Now everybody knows it and everybody eats it.”

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