Taco USA

About

In 1972, Arturo G. Torres founded Pizza Management Incorporated (PMI), headquartered in western Texas. Torres, a Cuban refugee, had relocated to Amarillo from Miami in the early 1960s, began working nights for a local Pizza Hut, and was soon promoted to manager. After saving enough to open his own franchise, Pizza Hut #1 (as it was called) opened in the border town of Del Rio. In the meantime, Ottis Byers had been managing restaurants for Sonic Drive-In in East Texas for several years after leaving the grocery business. When the company needed him to open and manage a store in Uvalde, Byers moved his family from Huntsville to the small West Texas town in 1972. The new Sonic Drive-In was to be located directly across the street from the town’s only pizza restaurant, PMI’s Pizza Hut #2. In one of those moments of serendipity, Torres took notice of the drive-in and its manager, offered Byers a position in his company, and the two began a partnered friendship that would last almost forty years. The duo spent the next few years opening restaurants for PMI all over West Texas, Kansas, and Puerto Rico. Wanting to diversify, PMI launched several conceptual restaurants over the years with the prototypes always initially tested in South Texas and usually in Del Rio. Among these were Applegate’s Landing, a full-menu, Italian eatery; China Hut, which offered Asian cuisine with the Pizza Hut theme right down to the pagoda rooftop replacing the red bonnet roof on the restaurant’s logo; and Taco USA, which continued the theme with a southwestern flair. Launched in 1976, Taco USA’s name and logo were again based on the Pizza Hut concept, having a Santa Fe-style, red-clay tiled roof, but with a new American twist. The bottom of the logo was styled from the Great Seal, sporting the Stars and Stripes in celebration of our nation’s bicentennial. These experimental restaurants had varying successes for PMI. China Hut never expanded beyond Del Rio. Applegate’s Landing, however, ultimately had locations as far north as Wichita, Kansas and as far east as Columbia, South Carolina. But the one concept that would prove to be most successful, the one that would continue to thrive even after the dissolution of PMI, was Taco USA. Because PMI solely owned all rights to the local spin-offs, there would be none of the corporate red tape that would accompany sub-franchising a national chain like Pizza Hut. This allowed PMI to offer franchises as incentives to current employees who had been loyal to the company but wished to break away with an independent venture. As a result, Taco USA restaurants began to sprout up all over the place: Del Rio (the pilot store), San Angelo, Kingsville, Victoria, Monahans, Amarillo, Ruidoso (NM), and Wichita (KS). There was even a Taco Riko in San Juan. Yet despite its initial momentum, one by one, each of these locations folded within a relatively short time. They had put the cart before the horse. The owners were ready, the equipment and buildings were prepared, but the product was far from exciting. Now again enters Ottis Byers, one of the first to join Arturo Torres at PMI. Byers knew he wanted a Taco USA franchise but was undecided where it should be located. PMI and all its subsidiaries had always operated in West Texas almost exclusively, which meant that most of the other franchisees would be planting their own operations in that area. Since he was from the northeastern part of the state and it was unlikely that anyone else would follow there and become his competition, Byers narrowed it down to three cities in East Texas: Tyler, Longview, and Nacogdoches. Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU) was a large college in a small town, and Ottis Byers believed that this would be a lucrative combination. Nacogdoches, with its university, was large enough for a business to generate plenty of trade, and small enough for his restaurant to be known to everyone in the city. So in 1978, Byers left PMI (though he remained on its board of directors), and began constructing the only Taco USA east of San Antonio and north of Houston. He brought with him the recipes handed down by the mothership, so needless to say, success was not immediate. The restaurant that opened at 3402 North Street in August 1978 did not yet have the product that would become a favorite of SFASU students. The food was mediocre at best, and Ottis Byers would not perfect the recipes for several months. When the initial reception of Taco USA was not what Byers anticipated, he began tweaking the ingredients. In the beginning, Byers dealt with one menu item at a time, fine-tuning the contents and proportions. But because the process was slow going and the business was withering in the meantime, Byers was going to have to come up with a plan. Everyone likes trying new restaurants, but Byers knew that most customers never give a business a second chance if their first experience is not optimal. There were just too many other restaurants wanting a slice of the market share for Byers’s business (especially one not yet established) to be anything less than outstanding. With this in mind, Byers closed shop one evening, locked the doors, and vowed not to leave or to open for business again until every ingredient of every item was just right. The result was the dismissal or restructuring of everything on the menu, and all the recipes from the original restaurants were completely discarded. The Nacogdoches Taco USA would share nothing but its name with its sister stores in West Texas. Growth of the restaurant’s popularity was not immediate, but it was swift. By 1982, the store had gained a large and loyal following, especially among students in high school and college. As a result, a second location was built in nearby Lufkin, Texas, and finally a third store in 1989 on the southern side of Nacogdoches, between the two existing locations. Ottis Byers’s three restaurants chugged along with the inevitable peaks and valleys until 1994. In that year, Byers sold the restaurants and moved away from Nacogdoches. Unfortunately, under new ownership and poor management, the last three Taco USAs remaining on the planet finally succumbed to the same fate as their sister stores in West Texas. Within eighteen months, Taco USA was no more. Taco USA was gone, but not forgotten. Over the years, those who remembered would reminisce and ask, “What ever happened to that place?” In a different age, this would have been the last references to a place that was gradually fading from memory, but a new age was dawning. The Information Age emerged with email, file servers, hypertext, social networks, newsgroups, phone text, and countless other ways to disseminate information. Within this a buzz began in social circles of SFASU alumni and spread among others who remembered how much they loved Taco USA. A new generation was listening. Chad Byers, son of Ottis, and childhood best friend Jeff Rhame (both who started working at Taco USA at age 15) had for many years discussed bringing Taco USA back. In the summer of 2012, when it became apparent that there was a demand, Taco USA was redesigned, rebuilt, and reborn. It would be a place suited to the 21st century but with an old, familiar theme. A throwback to the restaurant’s glory days with the same recipes and the same ingredients but with a lesser feel of fast food and a greater coffee-house ambience.


Additional Information

Popular Menu Items Queso Ground Beef Beef Fajita

Contact

7 Switchbud Pl
#194
The Woodlands, Texas 77380
United States

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Features

  • Price: $
  • Takes Reservations: No
  • Delivery: Yes
  • Take-out: Yes
  • Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
  • Good For: Lunch
  • Parking: Private Lot
  • Bike Parking: Yes
  • Wheelchair Accessible: Yes
  • Good for Kids: Yes
  • Good for Groups: Yes
  • Attire: Casual
  • Ambience: Casual
  • Noise Leve:l Average
  • Alcohol: Beer & Wine Only
  • Outdoor Seating: Yes
  • Wi-Fi: Free
  • Has TV: Yes
  • Dogs Allowed: Yes
  • Waiter Service: No
  • Drive-Thru: No
  • Caters: Yes
  • Delivery
  • Take Out
  • Catering

Hours

8am - 8pm everyday
Contact

(281) 292-8226


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