April 14, 2024

Taco Cabana: the patio cafe that has San Antonio roots

In 1978, Felix Stehling purchased an old Diary Queen location at the corner of San Pedro and Hidebrand Avenue in San Antonio. Stehling wanted the corner lot for additional parking for his popular bar called the Crystal Pistol Bar, which at the time was across the street.

Taco Cabana‘s founder Stehling was on to something by opening a taco joint to feed his patrons when they left the bar. Stehling put a lot of effort and money in his new establishment only to find his patio furniture stolen after the first night. Stehling first thought of the loss as a sign to close and go back to the bar business but his entrepreneurship didn’t get the best of him. He then thought of keeping the place open for the night becoming a 24/7 establishment to help prevent the theft of his patio furniture.

Stehling’s success with the first business and becoming profitable from selling the highest quality of food to his customers. All the meat and vegetables were fresh and delivered by local vendors setting his establishment apart from the competitors at the time using frozen, pre-packaged and canned food for their customers.

Stehling’s business also stood out by lowering his pricing to be more competitive and then with the success of the business he brought his brothers on-board.

In the direction of his guidance and the help of family, Taco Cabana expanded to nine restaurants.

In 1986, Felix and his brothers had a falling out and left the company. Stehling had decided to hire Richard Cervera who was a middle management executive at Fuddruckers, which was a national chain based out of San Antonio as well at the time.

In 1990, Cervera was appointed President of Taco Cabana and had began expansion into other states with franchise agreements.

In 1992, Taco Cabana had grown to over 30 restaurants in the city of San Antonio and surrounding areas.

In 1994, Stehling resigned from the company that he built and appointed Cervera as the chairman. Stockholders weren’t happy with Cervera so he resigned to become the new President of the House of Blues restaurant chain. Stephen Clark, who was the Chief Operating Officer of local based Church’s Fried Chicken, Inc. became the successor.

In 2000, Taco Cabana had spend a significant amount of money on their image and began looking at selling the company. In 2001, they found Carrols Restaurant Group, who owns Burger King, purchased the company until splitting the company up under the brand Fiesta Restaurant Group, a subsidiary of Carrols Restaurant Corporation. Taco Cabana still operates out of San Antonio in 17,700 square feet of office space inside suite 200 at 8918 Tesoro Drive.