Launched in Conway, Arkansas in 2014, Tacos 4 Life, founded by Austin Samuelson, is a restaurant chain with a charitable mission.
He takes donating to food charities very seriously. Every purchase of a taco, bowl, salad, quesadilla or slaw results in a 25 cent donation to Feed My Starving Children, a non-profit organization dedicated to alleviating hunger around the world. Meals cost $10 to $15, and donations accounted for 4% of total sales.
At 5,400,000 meals served in 2022, it raised the equivalent of $1.3 million for Feed My Starving Children.
But Tacos 4 Life is growing at a steady pace. It has expanded to 26 locations in seven states including Kansas, Missouri, NC, Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee, 15 of which are franchised.
When Samuelson opened the first Taco 4 Life, he ran it using ingenuity and fairness. It has raised $300,000 in crowdfunding through Indigogo and other sites.
What’s more, Samuelson and two silent partners have capitalized on its growth since 2015, without using bank loans, private equity or angel investors, as many restaurant chains do.
Samuelson graduated from a Baptist college and his desire to give back, on a daily basis, stems from “his personal values and his faith.” Some restaurant chains organize a quarterly charity drive or a special night, but Tacos 4 Life raises money for charity every day.
His goal is to run a stable, profitable business while providing meals to those in need. “Yes, you can do both,” Samuelson asserted.
What motivated Samuelson was listening to a lecture in 2008 in which Richard Stearns, president of World Vision United States, an international Christian humanitarian organization, noted that 18,000 people die every day in the world from hunger. And yet, he said, hunger is a solvable problem.
Inspired by Stearns’ speech, Samuelson, 38, said, “We want to help end hunger by selling tacos.”
When selecting franchisees, Samuelson noted, they look for entrepreneurs who want to, in his words, “run profitable businesses, but want to use the restaurant to do good and feed people.” It’s an unlikely mix, but he said many of these franchisees are drawn to the taco chain because of its mission.
Surveys of its customers reveal that many “come for the food, but have an extra level of attachment or loyalty to the brand because of the mission.” And if it helps attract repeat customers, it feeds (no pun intended) the bottom line.
Yelp feedback highlights that many of its customers know what makes Tacos 4 Life the best. Gail, from Conway, Ark., said “Thank you for supporting so many charities and providing food for children. The service was excellent.” And Cameo, of Modesto, Calif., added that “the tacos were great.”
The 26 locations range from major cities like Charlotte to smaller towns like Blue Spring, Mo. and Midwest City, OK. Samuelson said the ideal location is a city of about 100,000 people.
In the remainder of 2023, it plans to add four to five locations, including two on college campuses in Arkansas, and in Missouri, NC and Virginia.
He said his tacos are “made from scratch and prepared fresh daily, using locally sourced ingredients.” Some of its most popular items include fried chicken, Korean bbq tacos, tofu tacos, and classic chicken tacos, with a healthier clientele gravitating toward salads and bowls.
Samuelson described his target audience as “diverse but often young professionals or young families looking for a fun, casual dining experience with a purpose.”
In two years, he expected to double to about 50 locations, with most of the growth coming from franchising. It is centered in the southwest, but is spreading into Virginia and parts of the north.
Asked about the three keys to his continued success, Samuelson replied: 1) Maintaining the mission and its guiding principles, 2) Maintaining a commitment to fresh food, 3) Taking care of franchisees and operators and helping them succeed.
Forbes – Business