$3 menu item selling every five seconds
Guzman Y Gomez has gone from a single hole-in-the-wall to a $300 million global fast food empire in just 14 short years.
But a brand new product hailed as a "piece of art" might be its biggest achievement yet.
The much-loved Mexican chain has just introduced a $3 taco founder and CEO Steven Marks described as "by far our best product launch" - and Aussies just can't get enough.
The budget-friendly snack was added to the menu a few weeks ago, and since then overall taco sales have skyrocketed by 212 per cent per week.
The tacos are so popular that last Friday, one sold every five seconds, and they've been a particular hit in Hoxton Park and Seven Hills in NSW, Cranbourne in Victoria and Bowen Hills and Browns Plains in Queensland.
New York native Mr Marks, who opened the first Guzman store in Newtown in Sydney in 2006 with childhood friend Robert Hazan, said the new addition had "just gone crazy" since day one.
He said the tacos - which contain Mexican minced beef, lettuce and shredded cheese in a crunchy Chipotle-seasoned hard-shell corn tortilla - were the "best thing" the company had produced.
"When you eat this thing you almost want to cry it's so good," he said.
"It's better and cheaper so how could you not love that - it hits every single box.
"Where else could you get a fresh $3 taco? Nowhere - I don't think you could even make it that cheap at home."
That cheap and cheerful price point has likely helped with those staggering sales, especially as Australians are becoming increasingly money-conscious as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll.
But while countless companies have been brought to their knees by COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown, the chain is thriving and even opened several restaurants during the crisis.
The brand has dropped the prices for some items during the outbreak, signed on to several new takeaway delivery platforms and offered free delivery with Uber Eats and Deliveroo.
Throughout the years, the company has also focused on drive-through restaurants which meant it was well prepared when Australia went into lockdown.
"Our leadership team and culture is so strong it has elevated us through this time - when March 16 hit nobody knew what to do, but Guzman Y Gomez as a fast food business was almost recession proof because we already did a huge amount of takeaway deliveries," Mr Marks said.
"We want everyone to be in love with Guzman Y Gomez and we want it to be accessible and offer great value food that is hot, fresh and clean.
"And nobody in the country does takeaway deliveries and drive-thru better."
The stats back up that claim - the majority of Guzman's drive-thrus are experiencing 50-100 per cent year-on-year comparable store sales growth each week during lockdown which Mr Marks said was "unheard of", while strip restaurants are experiencing between 20 and 50 per cent growth during the same period.
NEWTOWN TO NAPERVILLE
Today, there are more than 130 restaurants in Australia across all states except Tasmania - an impressive feat considering the juggernaut started in 2006 with a single tiny outlet in trendy Newtown, which Mr Marks affectionately refers to as his "baby".
The brand has also gone global, with 11 branches in Singapore, four in Japan and one in Naperville in the US and with around 4000 staff worldwide.
Over the years, the menu has expanded and in March this year, it launched its Clean campaign which guaranteed the entire menu had no added preservatives, no artificial flavours, no added colours and no unacceptable additives.
"We had a light bulb moment - that we should reinvent fast food, because when did fast food become bad food?" Mr Marks explained, adding the company was also committed to going green by composting and reducing waste destined for landfill.
But while Guzman Y Gomez has been booming for years, the launch into the US market in January this year raised a few eyebrows, given America's already-flooded fast food sector and the success of other Mexican chains such as Taco Bell and Chipotle.
But Mr Marks told news.com.au he was confident Guzman Y Gomez has what it takes to dominate, and said there were plans to open new eateries in his homeland soon.
"I'm from the states and I know the US market - nobody in the US has the ability to serve our quality food with traditional drive-thrus," he said.
"Our breakfast food is also far better - nobody else can do breakfast fast food at traditional fast food speed.
"It took us two years to find our first US site because we're obsessed with real estate - the goal was always to open in Triple A locations and we're confident people walk into Guzman Y Gomez and experience genuine support and love."
Almost six months into the US gamble, the most popular products are $US7.50 burritos - which dropped down to $US5 during the coronavirus outbreak.
Burritos make up 16 per cent of US sales with chicken the most popular filling option.
The chain is continuing its aggressive local expansion too with a number of new restaurants in the pipeline for 2020 and 2021.
In fact, next financial year "a minimum of 20 restaurants" will be built - but some lucky Aussies have far less time to wait, with a new store in Glandore in South Australia opening on Wednesday followed by Carousel in Perth soon after.
An outlet will open in Warners Bay in NSW in July and Kent St in Sydney's CBD in August, with new branches earmarked for Frenchs Forest and Kotara in NSW and Tarneit in Victoria in October.
Originally published as $3 menu item selling every five seconds