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Emerging Brands

5 things to know about: Mission Taco Joint

How a full-service burrito-and-margarita concept is staying true to its mission and focusing on internal growth during the coronavirus crisis.
Photos courtesy of Mission Taco

Buzzworthy Brands is a bi-weekly Restaurant Business podcast and feature highlighting innovative growth brands. Listen to the conversation with Mission Taco Joint’s co-owners Jason and Adam Tilford.

Brothers Adam and Jason Tilford founded Mission Taco Joint in St. Louis in 2013, inspired by their childhood in California where they first encountered Mission-style Mexican food. The concept now has seven units across Missouri.

Mission Taco Owners

The genre became popular during the 1960s in San Francisco’s Mission District and is characterized by its jumbo-sized burritos. Mission Taco Joint’s burritos come stuffed with ingredients like shredded beef birria, pork belly carnitas, cilantro rice and black beans. The restaurants are decorated with bright, vibrant Mission-style murals and graffiti art.

Like so many other restaurateurs during this time, the Tilford brothers have made a number of shifts to their full-service concept to survive during the pandemic.

Please note that this podcast was recorded before indoor dining was shut down once again in the St. Louis area, impacting some of the chain’s operations.

Here are five more things to know about Mission Taco Joint:

  1. Mission Taco Joint launched a new, takeout-only concept at its location in suburban Kirkwood, Mo., on Monday. Off The Wall Burgers has taken over a unit that had recently been closed to indoor dining and will run as long as dining rooms are shuttered. The streamlined menu features a signature burger, Philly steak sandwich, corn dog, chicken sandwich and vegan taco burger.
  2. The Tilfords never refer to their concept as a “Mexican” restaurant, saying that does a disservice to all of the mom-and-pop taquerias out there. Their restaurants are “Cali-Mex,” they said.
  3. The brand is very focused on employee wellness, pushing for managers to get two days off in a row, enhanced benefits and 45-hour work weeks for managers. Mission Taco has long been known for promoting from within.
  4. During the pandemic, the restaurant pushed its food trucks back into service. Using software that allows neighborhoods to book the truck has allowed the brand to bring larger orders into the community. Neighbors will sit in their driveways with their burritos and margaritas, the Tilfords said. Mission Taco has also seen recent interest in offices booking the truck.
  5. The chain lobbied with other restaurant owners to push the Missouri legislature to legalize to-go cocktails. The brothers say having that option has been a huge help to sales during this crisis. Also helping make up lost dine-in revenue is a line of new DIY menu items, including family taco and nacho kits.


Mission Taco


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