Local favorite Taco Time Northwest has created a new prototype restaurant. The space is at 5611 221st Place SE in Issaquah incorporates the company’s history and customer-proposed design elements. Aside from updated interior and exterior design, the restaurant will implement a new ordering process.

The new location features:

  • Updated Exterior Design: celebrating Taco Time NW’s local history by utilizing a shed roof and native northwest materials. The overall look was inspired by local farmers markets with an abundant use of open space and more windows to better utilize natural lighting.
  • New Ordering Process: that makes for a more comfortable experience and allows guests ample time to craft their personalized orders.
  • New Interior Design: with an open kitchen layout that allows Taco Time NW to show all the ingredients being prepared fresh throughout the day.
  • Enhanced Outdoor Seating: complete with a fireplace that is shared with the interior dining room.

The company doesn’t have the rights to expand outside the state because of a unique deal in its history. Taco Time got its start in Eugene, Ore., in 1960. In the late 1970s, one of the owners, Frank Tonkin Sr., became unsatisfied with Taco Time’s direction, so he traded in his third of the company to gain exclusive rights to Taco Time in Washington. This led to the inception of Taco Time Northwest. Taco Time and Taco Time Northwest are two separate companies with different concepts that happen to share a name.

The new prototype is Taco Time Northwest’s effort to bolster its existing infrastructure. “With a family-run business, since our great-grandfather started the company 52 years ago, we’ve always reinvested our profits into growing the business – buying more real estate and opening new restaurants, that’s just been our model forever. Unfortunately we have not done a good job in reinvesting in existing restaurant. Some restaurants of ours are fairly dated, and we haven’t remodeled or reimaged them since they opened in ’80s or ’90s,” says Chris Tonkin, vice president of Taco Time Northwest.

Tonkin says the company has a fairly high backlog of restaurants that need to be updated. Taco Time Northwest currently has 75 restaurants in Washington (the Tonkin family owns and operates 41 of those stores, and the remaining 34 are franchises). “We interviewed multiple architecture firms from small local companies to large national companies, and ultimately settled on BCRA in Tacoma because they’re local and have familiarity with our brand. GMA Research, an Eastside company, conducted focus groups for us and they really helped us build a foundation to build and design this prototype,” Tonkin says.

Next up for Taco Time Northwest prototype restaurants are the Renton Highlands, Totem Lake, and Factoria locations.