How California Tortilla’s Strong Unit-Level Economics and Exceptional Service Helps Multi-Unit Owners Grow
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How California Tortilla’s Strong Unit-Level Economics and Exceptional Service Helps Multi-Unit Owners Grow

These multi-unit owners have grown with the Mexican fast-casual brand thanks to a scalable business model, an in-demand offering and exceptional support infrastructure.

March 03, 2020 // // POTOMAC, MD - Founded in 1995, California Tortilla - also known as Cal Tort - has been pioneering a fresh take on “California-style” Mexican food. The Maryland-based fast-casual restaurant began franchising in 2003, bringing its in-house recipes, exceptional service and proven business model to locations all throughout the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic. Today, the innovative Mexican concept has successfully expanded to more than 40 locations and is set to continue growing throughout prime U.S. territories.

From day one, California Tortilla has appealed to multi-unit operators with franchise or restaurant industry experience because of the brand's great unit-level economics and the availability of prime territories. Cal Tort's menu, service system and buildout are all specifically designed to be profitable and have generated strong returns for franchisees as a result.

One multi-unit owner, the Philadelphia-based franchisee Sean Gray, has grown his footprint exponentially since signing on with the brand in 2007. The former chef decided to become a multi-unit owner for the same reasons he was drawn to Cal Tort initially: A healthy, fresh and high-quality offering he was proud to serve and sound operations.

“I couldn’t bring myself to sign with any [lower quality] brands because as an executive chef, I’d never be okay with serving junk,” Gray said. “But when I looked into Cal Tort, the fresh ingredients and chef-driven recipes blew me away. As a culinary chef, I really felt that I could stand behind the brand and feel proud of what we were serving in every option on the menu.”

Not only did Gray believe in the food, he believed in the scalability of the Cal Tort business model itself. “Thanks to my consulting background, I really value strong training and I know the importance of following procedures and systems - don’t fix something that’s not broke,” he said. “The more locations we’ve opened, the more brand awareness we’ve been able to generate in the Pennsylvania market. It’s been a really successful endeavor.”

Another owner, Maryland-based Tommy Geary, purchased his first California Tortilla location in Mt. Airy in January 2009. Since then, he’s only found himself more invested in the Cal Tort brand and recently acquired a corporate-owned location in Frederick, a town 20 minutes from Mt. Airy.

“I have gotten tired of the food at every restaurant I’ve worked in after about a year,” said Geary. “But 10 years later, I still eat lunch or dinner at Cal Tort basically every day.”

According to Geary, Cal Tort ownership allows him to create a flexible work-life balance.

“I like the ownership aspect because I can better determine my own hours,” he said. “I also love the nature of California Tortilla. It’s a fast-casual restaurant that has a family-friendly atmosphere.”

In addition to strong unit-level economics and scalable operations, Cal Tort offers exceptional franchisee support from day one of operation.

To position franchisees for financial and operational success, each new partner goes through four weeks of comprehensive training at the company’s training restaurant in Maryland. During the grand opening process, the executive team deploys a specialized training team on-site to assist in training the new staff, and each new franchisee is assigned a dedicated franchise business consultant who helps them navigate marketing, in-store operations, P&L analysis and more.

Charlie Patel, a multi-unit owner in the greater New Jersey area, has expanded his footprint to feature eight California Tortilla locations in the 11 years he’s been with the brand. His newest restaurant is about to open in the King of Prussia Mall.

From the very beginning, Patel was extremely impressed by how hands-on the corporate leadership team was when it came to helping franchise partners grow. “As an experienced owner, I also love the fact that I can hire qualified managers and trust their leadership in the store,” he said. “Cal Tort’s scalable business model and streamlined operations drive business and create optimal results.”

“Our menu, service system and buildout are designed to be profitable, and our franchisees benefit greatly from that,” said California Tortilla’s Director of Franchise Development, Aaron Goldberg. “Plus, in the restaurant industry, fast-casual is the top-performing sector - 30% of all restaurants in the United States are fast-casual franchises. Within that, the Mexican food segment is the top-performing subcategory. We exist at the intersection of these consumer preferences, which is a sweet spot that shows no signs of slowing down.”

California Tortilla is also keeping up with this year’s consumer trends, whether it be the Millennial demand for healthier options, the use of more sustainable and eco-friendly products or the need for a mobile app with enhanced capabilities.

Since Cal Tort is an emerging brand, much of the U.S. is still available for development and prime markets across the country are ripe with opportunity, which makes for a great potential investment with plenty of room to grow. With the help of qualified, multi-unit franchise partners, Cal Tort is well on its way to achieving its goal of growing past the impressive 100-unit threshold in the next few years.

About California Tortilla

Since 1995, California Tortilla has brought a fresh perspective to “California-style” Mexican flavors. The fast-casual Mexican restaurant franchise's signature, made-to-order food is all made in-house from fresh, never-frozen ingredients, ensuring the highest-quality menu offering at all 45 of its locations. For more information, please visit

Media Contact:

Jennifer Hoch
No Limit Agency

SOURCE California Tortilla



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