May 6, 2014

Taco John’s helps fill need for fast food dining

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

Things people never expected to see in Watford City continue to arrive. But that does not make them any less exciting. On Thursday, May 1, after months of anticipation, the city’s first fast food restaurant with a drive-through, Taco John’s, opened its doors and its service counter to area residents.
Ruben Hooper, the Director of Operations for Professional Restaurant Group (PRG), is not only excited to be a part of opening a Taco John’s Restaurant in Watford City, but he feels that PRG will be good for Watford City.
“I feel that we are very in tune to the needs of cities that are going through an oil boom,” states Hooper.
He makes this statement first because PRG not only owns a successful Taco John’s restaurant in Montana and Idaho, but also in the oil-impacted cities of Minot, Dickinson and Williston. And the Williston Taco John’s is the busiest Taco John’s in the nation.
“The Williston Taco John’s started off as a busy store anyway,” states Megan Gundstrom, Marketing manager for PRG. “But then the volume went crazy around 2009, and in 2011 it really went wild.”
Gundstrom states that Taco John’s has regular times where they are busy, i.e. Taco Tuesday.
“But the Williston store is always busy,” states Gundstrom.
Gundstrom credits the Williston Taco John’s success to its general manager, stating that her response and adjustment to the boom is what also helped the store respond and adjust well to the boom.
Both Gundstrom and Hooper feel that Taco John’s is a successful restaurant more so because of certain inherent qualities within the organization - speed of service, community involvement and customer service.
“Some businesses can let things slide, like employee appearance, store appearance and friendliness,” states Hooper. “We believe in not letting things go just because we are busy.”
Hooper states that it will be Taco John’s goal to maintain positive customer service, but also to become involved in the Watford City area community.
“We were a part of the Williston community before the boom,” states Hooper. “We plan to be very community involved in Watford City as well.”
According to Hooper, PRG believes that one way to build trust in a community is to give back to it. It is the reason that Taco John’s will host community fundraisers and why they sought to hire locally as much as possible.
“If people are from this town, then they know this town and they will stay in this town,” states Hooper.
PRG applied this thinking to the store’s wages, and hired people to work in the Watford City Taco John’s for $16 to $20 per hour.
“People said we could not fully staff a Taco John’s in the oil boom,” states Hooper. “But we understand that it is so expensive  for people to live here that it has to be worth their while to work here.”
Hooper states that PRG opened their new restaurant in Watford City with 10 management staff and roughly 70 total employees, with each employee making no less than the minimum, $16 per hour.
But Hooper believes it is more than wages that keeps employees happy. It is a general investment in the well-being of the those who represent the Taco John’s name.
“We believe that what we as managers give our employees is what they will pass on to our customers,” states Hooper. “I love working for this business and I want the people who work here to love working here, too. Because if they do, they will pass that on to our customers.”
Taco John’s opened its doors to the public on Thursday, May 1, opening at 5 a.m. and closing their food service at 2 a.m. Hooper states that those will be the normal hours of operation, 5 a.m. to 2 a.m., every day, with the dining area closing at 11 p.m.
“We are going full boat,” states Hooper. “We are the only fast food restaurant from Watford City to Minot, and we are excited about it.”
Hooper states that after about a month, and the restaurant staff seems settled in what they are doing, the Watford City Taco John’s will be open to hosting community fundraisers on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.