California Tortilla

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California Tortilla
Industry Restaurant
Genre Fast casual Mexican food
Founded 1995 in Bethesda, Maryland
Founder Pam Felix and Alan Cohen
Number of locations
38 as of March 2014; franchised since 2003
Area served
Washington Metropolitan Area
Products Burritos, salads, etc.
Services Catering

California Tortilla is a chain of franchised fast casual Mexican restaurants, the first of which was opened in 1995 in Bethesda, Maryland by business partners Pam Felix and Alan Cohen.[1] The chain's menu, which features Mission burritos, is comparable to that of its competitors, such as Baja Fresh and Chipotle Mexican Grill.[2] A typical restaurant has 2,500 square feet (230 m2) with seating for 75 people.[1] California Tortilla was voted by readers of Washingtonian magazine as having the best burritos in both 2009[3] and 2010,[4] and "best Mexican" in 2014.[5] The chain sold its 5 millionth burrito on August 22, 2007.[6]


California Tortilla has 43 restaurant locations in seven states (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts), and the District of Columbia,[7] and a location in Qatar.[8] Some airport locations are branded as Burrito Elito.[7] The chain is headquartered in Rockville, Maryland.


The interior of a California Tortilla restaurant

California Tortilla restaurants have a "spunky" atmosphere, according to the company itself, and are decorated in bright, bold colors and patterns. Simple things such as pens to sign credit card slips are held to the counter by a large heavy chain. Signs are also worded with humor in mind. The staff members are encouraged to be "unique" and "fun", which can vary by location. A monthly Taco Talk newsletter is published online and in print by co-founder Pam Felix, whose picture appears (along with partner Alan Cohen's) on some of the restaurant's paper goods.


Patrons of California Tortilla experience a variety of promotions that offer free food or discount coupons. Some of the promotions are typical of restaurants, such as a free taco to those who join the email list. Other promotions are somewhat unusual, such as Free Pop-Tart Day. In 2008, California Tortilla attempted to break the record for the world's largest rock, paper, scissors game.[9] Subscribers of the email newsletter receive occasional "secret" promotions, and a "Burrito Elito" loyalty program allows registered customers to receive points, based on pre-tax totals, with each 50 points resulting in a $5 discount.

Year-round promotions include the "Monday Night Mystery Prize Burrito Wheel," where anyone who purchases a regular-sized burrito every Monday night after 5 pm can spin the wheel and win a prize. The prizes range from a free cookie or brownie to $1 off your next purchase or a free signature salad.

Grand openings[edit]

People in line for a restaurant opening

At most California Tortilla restaurant grand openings, patrons who stop by between 11 am – 2 pm and 5 pm – 8 pm receive a free burrito of their choice and a soft drink. The first ten people in line at 11 am receive one free burrito every week for a year at that location, while the next 20 in line receive one free burrito every week for a month.[10]


  1. ^ a b Kretikos, Eleni (May 14, 2004). "California Tortilla franchises into N. Va. and beyond". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved 2009-02-07. 
  2. ^ Heath, Thomas (October 22, 2007). "Tortilla Franchise Growing Up". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-02-07. 
  3. ^ "Best of Washington: Readers Pick Their Favorites". Washingtonian Magazine. July 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-31. 
  4. ^ "Taco Talk July 2010 Issue 180". California Tortilla. July 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  5. ^ Spiegel, Anna (August 11, 2014). "Free food alert". Washingtonian Magazine. Retrieved 2015-02-18. Washingtonian readers voted California Tortilla 'best Mexican' in our 2014 Best Of Washington survey 
  6. ^ Eckert, Barton (August 27, 2007). "That's a wrap: 5 million burritos sold, California Tortilla says" (PDF). Baltimore Business Journal. Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  7. ^ a b "Locations". California Tortilla. Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  8. ^ "California Tortilla – Qatar". Roots for Hospitality & Services LLC. Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  9. ^ Monroe, Ashlee (July 18, 2008). "Steve Miller Band fans rock Guinness record". WTOP. Archived from the original on 2013-01-12. Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  10. ^ "Grand Openings". California Tortilla. Archived from the original on 2011-12-25. Retrieved 2009-02-07. 

External links[edit]