Zantigo is a small chain of fast food Mexican restaurants that began operation c. 1969 in Minnesota in the United States and also its predecessor, a separate chain of nearly one hundred locations that existed in the 1970s and 1980s, and after several ownership changes was eventually absorbed into Taco Bell in 1987.
Original Zantigo chain (1969–1987)
|Founded||1969Minneapolis, Minnesotaas Zapata in|
|Fate||Acquired by Taco Bell|
Zantigo was founded in 1969 as Zapata by Marno McDermott, who would later be the co-founder of another Mexican chain, Chi-Chi's. In 1974, McDermott sold Zapata to Heublein, owners at the time of KFC. (Zapata's home Mexican food product line was renamed Ortega at this time.) In 1976, the chain of Zapata Mexican fast-food restaurants was renamed Zantigo. The chain grew rapidly in this period. Television ads for Zantigo featured a Mexican-American narrator with an accent who ended the commercials with the tag line, "Zantigo – you'll be back, amigo."
In 1977, it was reported that average annual sales for a Zantigo location, $300,000, exceeded those for a Taco Bell store, $230,000, and the Louisville-based Zantigo was eager to challenge Taco Bell in the market. But by 1980, KFC had put expansion plans for Zantigo on hold in order to focus on its core Kentucky Fried Chicken business. Heublein was acquired by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in 1982. Following the 1985 takeover by Reynolds of Nabisco, the new company, RJR Nabisco divested itself of many businesses. In 1986, KFC was sold to PepsiCo for $850 million. Since Pepsi already owned a national Mexican food chain, Taco Bell, the decision was made to close or convert all existing Zantigo restaurants, of which there were 82 as of the October 1, 1986 announcement. The conversion was complete by late 1987 and the Zantigo name disappeared.
In many cases, the existing Zantigo stores were in better locations or in better physical condition than nearby Taco Bell locations. So, most Zantigo locations were rebranded as Taco Bell and the nearby Taco Bell stores closed. This led indirectly to the Taco Bell chain adopting many of the distinctive architectural details of the Zantigo design into new Taco Bell restaurant buildings.
Zantigo also had several unique menu items – the Chilito, the Taco Burrito, Chips 'n' Cheese. Of these, the Chilito was carried over by Taco Bell after the purchase in former Zantigo markets. The Chilito was promoted to a chain-wide item, and was later renamed "Chili-cheese Burrito".
New Zantigo chain (1996-present)
Number of locations
A new Zantigo chain, under new ownership consisting of a former Zantigo manager and his brother, had opened three restaurants in Minnesota by 1996 and currently has four locations in Minnesota. The restaurants are located in Bloomington, Fridley, Saint Paul, and Woodbury, Minnesota. The newest restaurant is on West 7th Street and Davern in St. Paul, Minnesota (a former Zantigo location). The menu contains many recipes and items from the original Zantigo chain, with numerous additions.
- "Corporate Report, Volume 9". Corporate Report. Ninth Fed Communications. 1978. p. 45. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- Lazarus, George (May 25, 1977). "Colonel puts 'Zantigo' in vocabulary". Chicago Tribune. p. C9.
- Sammons, Donna (March 2, 1980). "Kentucky Fried Chicken can cackle again". New York Times. p. F3.
- "PepsiCo to merge Zantigo's, Taco Bell". San Jose Mercury News. October 2, 1986. p. 10C.
- Tompor, Susan (September 30, 1986). "Taco Bell to swallow Zantigo's". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, Kentucky. p. 10 – via Newspapers.com.
- Zantigo Locations