Del Taco franchisee Doug Koch has built a successful business based on two simple principles: passion and hard work. Consistently one of Del Taco’s top performers, Doug owns nearly 100 franchised restaurants across the Southwestern United States. With humbler beginnings working at a Denny’s at age 15, Doug has risen to own an empire of Del Taco, Denny’s and PizzaRev restaurants that continues to grow. With a focus on excellence, strategic growth, community giving and family values, Doug shares the secrets to his franchise success.
1. Work your way up
I began working for Denny’s when I was 15 years old and performed every position from dishwasher to upper level management for 17 years before eventually becoming a franchisee. I’ve now been in franchising for 27 years, and own 93 Denny’s, 7 Del Taco and 2 PizzaRev restaurants. There’s no real secret to my success – it’s all about commitment and hard work. I’ve participated in CEO groups and done everything in my power to increase my personal knowledge and skillset, but at the end of the day it comes down to being passionate about what you do. Combined with the support of a great brand like Del Taco that is committed to consistently delivering quality food and superior guest experience, I’ve seized the incredible opportunities presented and poured my heart and soul into this business.
2. Commit to Excellence
My favorite thing about Del Taco is its focus on quality and excellence. This is evident in every aspect of the brand promise; from unparalleled guest service to the on-site preparation of fresh ingredients like our beans, which are slow-cooked in house every three hours, pico de gallo salsa hand chopped from tomatoes and onions, cheddar cheese grated from 40-lb blocks, and carne asada steak grilled fresh in each restaurants’ working kitchen. Just as Del Taco has set the bar high in the industry, my strategy has always been to pursue excellence in every facet of the business by participating in leadership positions, hiring the best talent that I can find and setting intentions to beat goals set by the franchisor. QKH’s goal is have all of our stores perform in the upper 10% of the company in terms of meeting and exceeding sales goals, and I’m proud to say I’ve been honored with Franchisee of the Year awards from both Del Taco and Denny’s due in large part to this strategic pursuit and the incredible efforts by my team.
3. Grow Strategically
It’s all about steady, sustainable growth. I opened my first Del Taco location in 2000 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and now operate seven in the state with another under construction. The corporate team at Del Taco has been there from the start, assisting with everything from site selection and construction support to extensive hands-on management and crew training. Del Taco continues to provide the necessary tools to run a steady and profitable business. With over 300 company restaurants, they are unlike other franchisors in that they are focused on bottom-line profits – not just top-of-line sales so they’re consistently working on improving the brand system wide. Additionally, with a smart leadership team in place, a strong business model, ongoing innovation and great value, I’m confident that as Del Taco continues to be a driving force in the industry it’s done so with its franchisee’s best interests at heart.
4. Share Your Success
Growing up with parents that always expected me to give back, philanthropy is ingrained in who I am. I think that it’s important to share company successes with the communities that make it all possible, which is why charitable giving is an integral part of our company culture at each of our Del Taco restaurants. In addition to hosting in-store fundraising events, we’ve built kitchens in Make-a-Wish headquarters as well as in several homeless shelters across the southwest, donated to No Kid Hungry, Muscle Dystrophy, Cookies for Cancer and other charitable organizations. We’ve even started our own non-profit, Community Cents, which we believe can be a model for every franchise system.
5. Family is Always First
Family time is a huge motivator for us. I’ve worked hard to set a good example for my kids, and now grand kids. All three of my children are grown, and one lives in Germany with my two grand-kids. Although Deanna and I currently reside in Phoenix, Arizona, and are busy with our restaurants, we video chat and visit with them whenever we can and the remainders of our weekends are spent with our immediate family.
I strive to apply the same principles in my stores that I do at home. Del Taco is like family to me. I am invested in each of my employees, and try to maintain a work environment that they look forward to returning to. By hiring the best managers and visiting each of my restaurants on a regular basis, I am committed to connecting with and motivating my staff members to excel at their jobs and find confidence in their successes. In turn, a happy staff translates to happy guests. Our goal is to make a visit to Del Taco the best part of our guests’ day.