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
Headquarters Rockville, Maryland, U.S.
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 2012-03-21. Retrieved 2009-02-07. 

External links[edit]