A Fan-based takeout taco spot is looking to add a new, larger coop just over the county line.
TBT El Gallo has a deal in the works for a second location in the former Pie Five Pizza Co. space in Willow Lawn.
The expansion is a first step in owner Carlos Ordaz-Nunez’s bid to make TBT El Gallo a bigger player in the Richmond-area restaurant scene. He also plans to buy a food truck and wants to add a third location as well.
“The goal is to turn TBT into a regional force. It bums me out when chains that aren’t from Richmond or Virginia are just showing up like, ‘Hi, we’re here,’” he said.
He’ll start with the 2,400-square-foot spot in Willow Lawn, for which he expects to sign a lease this week. Ordaz-Nunez said the space will seat about 60 people.
The menu will include items for which the restaurant gets the TBT part of its name: tacos, burritos and tortas. El gallo means the rooster in Spanish and is a reference to a nickname Ordaz-Nunez got as a kid after a bad haircut.
The Willow Lawn location also will allow for beer and wine to be added to the menu, something Ordaz-Nunez doesn’t have at TBT El Gallo’s original location at 2118 W. Cary St., which he opened in March 2021.
“We’re takeout only,” he said. “We don’t have the crutch of alcohol to drive our sales.”
Ordaz-Nunez said customers have responded with a high level of enthusiasm to the concept in the year since he opened in the Fan and it has been successful despite the pandemic.
“The fact we were able to survive all these obstacles, it blows my mind,” he said. “I compare it to a pirate ship. It’s a bunch of people from everywhere trying to stay aloft as you take on water. We have to haul ass or we’ll drown.”
To fuel his expansion plans, Ordaz-Nunez is holding a fundraiser with a goal of $250,000 on WeFunder, a crowdfunding website that allows anyone to invest in companies in exchange for an equity stake. The campaign, which started early last week, had raised $85,550 Friday afternoon. Ordaz-Nunez said he has enough money to open the Willow Lawn spot, and additional funding will finance the food truck and third location.
There isn’t a timeline on when the third location would open and Ordaz-Nunez hasn’t decided where it would be located.
He said he decided to launch a Wefunder as a way to build a stronger connection with his restaurant’s following.
“I had an epiphany a couple months ago filling out paperwork for an SBA loan: Why was I letting this banker, this faceless corporation, profit off my company? I much rather have my community that has been in my corner since I was in the parking lot (benefit from it),” he said. “They are the ones that should profit off this.”
Ordaz-Nunez credited what he called a positive work environment and tip splitting among staff as factors in TBT El Gallo’s success. He said he hoped to offer health insurance and benefits to employees after the third location opens.
“Hospitality starts with how you treat your staff and I believe that. I do my best to be a good employer. Once you establish that love and care in your walls, it’ll radiate to the people you’re serving,” he said.