Felix Stehling (April 2, 1927 – December 10, 2012) was an American businessman and restauranteur. Stehling and his brother, Mike Stehling, co-founded Taco Cabana, fast food restaurant chain specializing in Tex-Mex cuisine, in 1978. Stehling is also credited as the inventor of the beanburger, a now common dish in the San Antonio area, consisting of refried beans, Fritos and Cheez Whiz.
Stehling initially worked in for an insurance company, but left that insurance industry after just two years. He then owned and operated series of restaurants and nightclubs in San Antonio, including the Crystal Pistol and the Bombay Bicycle Club. In 1952, signed a three year lease to rent a small, shack-like restaurant on Austin Highway from Frank Sills, the owner of the first Sills' Snack Shack. It was here that Stehling invented and first offered the beanburger, made from refried beans, Fritos and Cheez Whiz. Frank Sills later sold Stehling's beanburger creation at his own restaurants once Stehling's lease on the building expired.
In 1978, Stehling and his brother, Mike, opened the first Taco Cabana in San Antonio at the intersection of Hildebrand and San Pedro streets at the site of a former Dairy Queen, dubbing the restaurant "the original Mexican patio café" Felix Stehling's wife, Billie Jo Stehling, created the décor and overall interior look for the restaurant chain. Mike Stehling later left the company.
Felix Stehling decided to take Taco Cabana public when the chain reached fifty stores, including locations in Austin and Houston. However, in 1994 Taco Cabana's board of directors ousted Stehling from the company. Taco Cabana, which is currently owned by the Fiesta Restaurant Group, Inc, now has 162 locations, as of December 2012, spread throughout Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.
Stehling was once a partial owner of the San Antonio Spurs. He founded a charity which provided funding for the Special Olympics of Texas, his alma mater, St. Mary's University, and other charitable groups. Outside of Texas, Stehling held real estate investments in Colorado.
Felix Stehling, who suffered from dementia during his later years, died on December 10, 2012, at the age of 87. His wife, Billie Jo Stehling, whom he had married in 1960, died on May 6, 2011, at the age of 86.
On its Facebook page, Taco Cabana reacted in Stehlings death, posting, "Back in 1978, he ignited what would soon become a Texas icon when he opened a small taco stand at the corner of San Pedro and Hildebrand in San Antonio, TX. As we enter our 35th anniversary year, we are proud of our rich history and the man that started it all." Todd Coerver, the CEO of the Taco Cabana's parent company, Fiesta Restaurant Group, also posted on Facebook, "Descanse en paz, Felix," which was soon liked by thousands of Taco Cabana's followers.
- Morton, Neil (2012-12-11). "Stehling, Taco Cabana founder, dies at 87". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
- "Felix Stehling, Taco Cabana founder, dies at 87". KENS. 2012-12-11. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
- Ayala, Elaine (2011-05-09). "Stehling created Taco Cabana décor". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved 2013-01-05.