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Roll-Em-Up Taquitos Expands in OC

After adding Orange County’s first Shake Shack to its roster in May and ahead of popular salad chain Sweetgreen’s debut this month, the Irvine Spectrum Center opened yet another fast-growing restaurant concept at its retail hub last week.

Roll-Em-Up Taquitos was first introduced in Chino Hills in 2019 and is projected to open over 500 locations in the next five years, according to company officials. There are 50 units in the current pipeline.

Orange County is one of the main markets Roll-Em-Up is focused on, with four local outposts open and at least seven more in the works.

The company currently has three restaurants in Irvine and another in Brea.

The newest location is at the Irvine shopping center next door to the Regal Theater on July 10.

This is the first of five Roll-Em-Up restaurants for local franchise operators Adam Rizza and David Latif, who are planning to expand to San Clemente, Laguna Beach, Mission Viejo and Aliso Viejo.

Rizza and Latif are also responsible for being the first to use certified Halal meat on the menu.

Roll-Em-Up has seen a steady flow of inquiries from landlords and business centers looking to partner with the young brand as it ramps up Southern California franchising plans, according to Chief Operating Officer Sam Fonseca.

Fonseca said the company will be looking to place the taquito restaurants in “great sites with a lot of foot traffic” in markets like Newport Beach, Anaheim and Huntington Beach.

“There’s definitely demand in OC,” Fonseca told the Business Journal. He noted sales at the Brea location have grown 40% since opening in 2021.

Roll-Em-Up, which was based in Irvine before moving its headquarters earlier this year to Murrieta, adds to Orange County’s roster of fast-casual Mexican cuisine options, joining larger chains including Irvine-based Taco Bell and Lake Forest’s Del Taco.

“Hopefully, we’re a new option when thinking of eating Mexican food,” he said.

Roll-Em-Up plans to have 25 locations by the end of 2023; it currently has 14 in total.

Local Plans

Fonseca is no stranger to building a major franchise from the ground up.

Prior to joining Roll-Em-Up last year, Fonseca worked to grow Dave’s Hot Chicken to more than 100 locations after first opening in 2017.

He also spent time with Raising Cane’s from 2016 to 2020, which is now up to 600 U.S. restaurants. Fonseca first started his career in 1994 at Irvine-based In-N-Out Burger’s original restaurant in Baldwin Park.

Part of Fonseca’s success recipe is having high execution of a focused menu. Revisions to Roll-Em-Up’s original menu included cutting out labor-intensive items such as rice and beans and adding a two-taquito combo, which now makes up 12% to 15% of store sales.

“We stay focused on one item but are doing it better than everybody else,” he said.

Roll-Em-Up added Fonseca to help with the franchise program, which started up a year and half ago.

The other two Irvine locations are part of a five-restaurant franchise deal with owners Ray and Lelani Libang. Libang’s brother Rico Libang is the general manager and commutes between the Irvine spots almost every day.

The goal is to have all five open in the next two years, Rico Libang told the Business Journal.

“Roll-Em-Up Taquitos is aiming to become a staple franchise,” he said, describing the concept as “upscale street food” in the fast-casual space.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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