It all started in the summer of 2010 over Tex-Mex and margaritas. As two buddies traveled through Texas, sampling tacos of all sorts along the way, the idea for Tex’s Tacos was born.
“We just wrote a business plan. We had no clue what we were doing because we had never worked in a restaurant, not even serving as a waiter,” said Mac Helms, president and co-founder of Tex’s Tacos. “It was a lot to get together, but once we got the ball rolling, we got pretty committed. We opened in April of 2011, kind of on a whim. It was crazy.”
The food truck began its business ventures in Atlanta before they were contacted by Tiger Dining to give Auburn’s campus a shot. Students who were here the semester it arrived will remember Tex’s Tacos eruption onto our campus. Waiting lines stretching across the green space were reminiscent of Chick-fil-A in the Student Center, before express lane days.
“That first spring semester they were here, they were having to serve all day. They’d go back to the kitchen right after serving, and cook basically until the start of the next day,” said Evan Davis, general manager.
Business for Tex’s Tacos continues to boom, as the average day carries with it a four-hour rush period.
“It’s nonstop. You’ll have a rush when class ends, and by the time you get to the end of that line, you might get a five minute break. If you have to use the restroom, you better hurry,” said Jojo Patino, longest working employee of Tex’s Tacos.
The day’s work doesn’t end when customers stop approaching the truck, however. Between prep work, cleaning, loading the truck and more, the business is being worked on usually 19 hours a day.
The start up was no easy task, but the response Tex’s Tacos received was not completely unexpected.
“I’ve always had a lot of confidence in our brand because we work so hard at it, and I know all that goes into it. We make our food from scratch, so it’s extremely labor intensive with the prep,” Helms said. “everybody’s been so great though, you can’t ever quite anticipate such a warm reception.”
Considering the success Tex’s Tacos has experienced at Auburn, it’s no surprise that Tiger Dining approached them about opening up a permanent spot in Terrell Dining Hall. The staff was already using the area for food prep and storage, so the transition wouldn’t present too many obstacles. The area was an opportunity waiting to be taken.
“Tiger Dining gauged our interest on the idea back in the end of November,” Helms said. “We met with them and the university to see if the university would approve of Tiger Dining’s proposal. They did, so it all came together really quickly.”
Although Tex’s Tacos is grateful for the opportunity to start business in Terrell, the ultimate dream is to have a location in the Student Center.
Similar to the taco truck’s arrival on campus, its reception into Terrell was welcomed as expected, but still impossible to prepare completely for.
“I thought it would be busy, but the first few weeks have been unbelievable,” Davis said. “The first week was crazy. (Mac and I) didn’t take a training course on this or anything, but at the time we just somehow knew what we were doing. When it’s just two people who know what they’re doing, that puts you up here for a lot of hours. The whole week was just a blur to me.”
A permanent location on campus means Tex’s Tacos will get to present customers with new additions to the menu. Burritos and salads will be introduced next week, along with other specials that are arriving soon.
Operating on Auburn’s campus has been hugely successful for the Tex’s Tacos, but has also presented a unique circumstance of challenges.
“You’re isolated to a specific number of customers, and that’s limited to those on campus,” said Davis. “Any bad experience whether it’s food, poor customer service or just anything not up to the customer’s expectations causes that number to go down, and you can’t make it up elsewhere. You have very few chances and almost no room for error.”
Helms strives to keep customer satisfaction high by never remaining complacent in anything involving Tex’s Tacos – whether it’s ingredients, combinations, products or even customer service.
“We work tirelessly to deliver a memorable dining experience. I believe that our loyal customers in Auburn recognize the sincerity behind this desire of ours,” Helms said.
As for the overwhelming support Auburn has shown toward Tex’s Tacos, Helms says he could not be more grateful.
“It’s truthfully been incredible how supportive and forgiving everybody has been here,” Helms said. “Everything’s not going to be perfect everyday. The days that it’s not, the fact that people still come back is exactly why I’ve fallen in love with this place.”