Michael Mohammed helped Chronic Tacos find an identity it could replicate

Michael Mohammed has a simple objective for his customers at Chronic Tacos.

“At the end of the day, our goal is to make the customer’s day better than it was when they walked in the door,” says Mohammed, CEO at the San Clemente, California-based restaurant chain. “We want people to be authentic and to be themselves. We embrace the individuality of our customers and our employees.”

Mohammed and his three brothers Dave, Dan and Joey became involved with Chronic Tacos in 2010 when they helped finance the chain’s first Canadian location.

“We really liked the brand and the food was phenomenal,” Mohammed says. “We thought there was a lot of potential. But we didn’t think they had the right leadership. We stayed in contact with them and when the opportunity came up to purchase a controlling stake in the company, we made the acquisition. That’s when I moved down to California and became CEO.”

Mohammed felt that Chronic Tacos needed an infusion of leadership. It also needed an identity that would make the 30 restaurants that operated under the Chronic Tacos brand feel like they were part of the same team.

“Each restaurant was acting as an individual restaurant,” Mohammed says. “They all had their own personality and their own style. There was no cohesive culture and value system driving the brand. There was just a lack of leadership.”

Take a step back

The lack of a common identity was enough of a concern for the Mohammed brothers that they stopped selling new franchisees until they could get the situation ironed out.

“We focused on operations and on introducing system tools so that when a new franchisee comes on-board, there’s a clear understanding of what we are as a brand and what they need to do to fit into that culture,” Mohammed says. “It’s an ongoing challenge. But when you’re dealing with a lot of people, you have to make sure you all have the same goal and that you understand what drives people and what inspires them.”

To get those tools developed, Mohammed and his executive team met with franchisees and asked what drew them to become part of Chronic Tacos in the first place. They also talked to customers and asked for feedback on what they liked about the restaurant and the food and what kept them coming back for more.

“We were able to take all that — the good and the bad — and come up with a cohesive plan as to how to design our brand and make sure it’s united,” Mohammed says. “We wanted a set culture and to set up our restaurants so the expectations of our consumers are met. We didn’t want them to go to one store and get a certain experience and expect that experience at the next store and not receive it.”

A big picture approach

Mohammed got everyone involved in the effort.

From graphic designers to the marketing team, everybody looked at what they could do, keeping the big picture in mind at all times.

“You have to listen to what your franchisees are saying,” Mohammed says. “You need to recognize ideas that are good for the company and not let your ego or anything like that get in the way. At the end of the day, it’s about what’s best for the company.”

The result of all this hard work is a goal to open more than 100 stores across the West Coast and Canada by 2018.

“We have a franchise advisory council with some of our top franchisees, guys who are really engaged,” Mohammed says. “We discuss things we are doing going forward. We have initiatives we work on from a corporate point of view.”

Despite the emphasis on structure and consistency, Mohammed is careful not to go too far in aligning his team.

“The essence of our brand is authentic flavors individually inspired,” Mohammed says. “We want them to be themselves and to come off as authentic. As long as they understand our core values and can be themselves within those core values, that’s where we can really have success.” ●

How to reach: Chronic Tacos, (949) 680-4602 or www.eatchronictacos.com