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A Strange, Rusty Rebranding


People hate change, and I am one of them. Whether it’s a new version of a car or a company I like changing their name, I’m often skeptical and long for things to remain way they used to be.

The original four-door sports carSeriously, the 1990 Nissan Maxima, was the best iteration of a car that’s since grown bloated and lame. It’s still Prince AND THE REVOLUTION to me, and that new Google font? Come on now—it’s bland and soulless. Or so I think today. I’ll likely come around with time.

And so it goes with the unexpected rebranding of Rusty Taco, a Dallas-based taco shop that was purchased by Minneapolis-based Buffalo Wild Wings last year. Named for the company’s late co-founder, Rusty Fenton, who passed away in 2013, the company announced this week it’s now going by “R Taco.”

I’m not a fan.

The first Rusty Taco in Minneapolis opened a few years ago not far from my house, and I’ve been a loyal patron from the start. (Those fried chicken tacos, I’m tellin’ you.) I’ve found it an amusing name that many young (read: less mature) people might associate with some Urban Dictionary-worthy terms I’m unwilling to discuss in a professional forum. It’s funny, and good dinnertime conversation fodder.

Citing a desire for a “broader base of appeal” in explaining the change, co-founder Steve Dunn said R Taco will better preserve Rusty’s memory than the original, Rusty Taco. Apparently, people are going to be coming into the store and asking who R was, which, from an outsider’s perspective, makes no sense.

I don't want to be insensitive to Rusty’s memory, or the branding challenge for his widow, Denise Fenton, and other company executives, but that’s a strange justification for a name change that, at first blush, feels quite generic. And there’s no innuendo with the letter R.

Rebranding isn’t easy, a topic I covered HERE back in our March issue, but I often wonder where’s the courageous board member, exec or employee to speak up and say, “Excuse me, but R Taco is just flat-out boring.”

I’ve seen little impact from BWW’s takeover of Rusty Taco, but I’m hoping the next change will be firmly in the “positive” category.

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About This Blog

The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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