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Three Taco Chains to Watch in 2024

by 
Lila Margalit
 on 
January 30, 2024
Three Taco Chains to Watch in 2024

Hot on the heels of the burrito’s emergence as America’s favorite dish in 2022 – edging out even the iconic cheeseburger – spicy potato tacos rocked Grubhub’s list of 2023’s top five spicy food orders. 

So with the new year upon us, we dove into the data to check in with three steadily-expanding taco chains that are likely to continue making waves this year: Bartaco, Condado Tacos, and El Vaquero. Each of the three chains fills a somewhat different niche, and each of them is growing – showing that despite the challenges facing the restaurant industry, there’s a hot market for taco chains that hit the sweet spot with the right food and ambiance.

Bartaco and Condado Tacos on the Rise

Bartaco, the upscale eatery known for its beach-like vibe, specialty cocktails, and eclectic street food menu, is a taco restaurant with a twist. The diverse menu includes everything from falafel tacos to glazed pork belly rice bowls. And while guac and chips are on offer, hungry diners can also indulge in kale caesar salad or Korean-style kimchi. Over the past several years, Bartaco has expanded its fleet – and the restaurant now boasts some 29 locations across 12 states (and Washington, D.C).

Condado Tacos is another popular restaurant that has grown its footprint in recent years. The “come as you are” casual-dining chain known for its funky art decor now features some 49 locations across 10 states – 20 of them in Ohio. And with plans to open 90-100 restaurants by 2026, the chain is on a roll. Customers can build their own tacos with fillings like Thai Chili Tofu or Tequila-Lime Steak, or choose one of the menu’s tempting suggestions. And like Bartaco, Condado Tacos offers a variety of cocktails – including seasonal choices like the Harvest Pear Marg.

And location intelligence shows that the expansion of both chains is meeting growing demand. Visits to Bartaco and Condado Tacos have risen steadily over the past two years, reaching a respective 52.2% and 52.9% growth in Q4 2023 relative to Q1 2022.

El Vaquero: A Cinco de Mayo Fav

Ohio is also home to El Vaquero – a Mexican chain with 18 locations in the Buckeye State and two more in Michigan. El Vaquero, which has also expanded over the past several years, saw foot traffic rise 4.8% in Q4 2023 compared to the equivalent period of 2022. And with a menu that includes everything from nachos to huevos con chorizo, it’s no wonder the chain has emerged as a local favorite.

Like Bartaco and Condado Tacos, El Vaquero has a rich cocktail menu, as well as a varied selection of wines and beers. And while the chain’s offerings certainly draw crowds throughout the year, El Vaquero really goes crazy on Cinco de Mayo, the May 5th commemoration of Mexico's victory over Napoleon in 1862. El Vaquero marks the occasion with a five-day special menu and an all-day happy hour on Cinco de Mayo itself. And on May 5th, 2023, El Vaquero experienced its busiest day of the year by far, drawing a remarkable 200.2% more visitors than it did, on average, during April and May 2023.

Singles and Tacos for Dinner

Drilling down into the data for Bartaco, Condado Tacos, and El Vaquero shows that despite their differences, the three chains experience similar hourly visitation patterns. All three are busiest in the evenings – but while El Vaquero and Condado Tacos peak between 6:00 PM and 8:00 PM, Bartaco peaks somewhat later, between 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM. Bartaco also stays busier into the 9:00 PM – 10:00 PM time slot.

Bartaco’s, Condado Tacos’, and El Vaquero’s evening draw may be due, in part, to the special appeal they hold for singles: The captured markets of all three chains feature significant shares of one-person households – and in the case of Bartaco and Condado Tacos, smaller concentrations of families with children. (For El Vaquero, the proportion of households with children is on par with that of single-person households). Of the three, the more upscale Bartaco boasts the highest share of single-person households – and the lowest share of parental ones – perhaps explaining its later visit peak and greater late-night engagement.

Key Takeaways

Mexican food has arisen as a preferred cuisine for many consumers. And even in today’s challenging economic environment, brands that can offer a winning combination of good food, nice cocktails, and a welcoming atmosphere are poised to thrive. How will Bartaco, Condado Tacos, and El Vaquero continue to fare in the new year? And what lies in store for the wider taco restaurant space in the months to come?

Follow Placer.ai’s data-driven dining analyses to find out. 

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Condado Tacos
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