We all start somewhere

What began as an idea between two brothers to open a Mexican restaurant has since grown into one of the largest, privately held Taco Bell franchisees in America.

Today, the business employs more than 5,000 team members in 184 restaurants across the Upper Midwest. Border Foods has a people-first culture where leaders work to develop team members for long-term careers with the brand and beyond.

Timeline

1979

Jeff Engler noticed a void in the marketplace for Mexican food. With an entrepreneurial upbringing (his dad, Marvin, owned a movie theater business), Jeff and his cousin, Alan, decided to open a quick-service Mexican restaurant called Los Primos. When Jeff’s brother, Lee, graduated from college that same year, Jeff gave him a job on the line making tacos. It was the beginnings of what would be a long-standing partnership between them.

1979 - 1984

The Engler brothers grew Los Primos to 19 locations across 5 states, including in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, but they were struggling. By 1985, Jeff and Lee knew they needed to reinvent themselves. They approached Taco Bell about becoming a franchise partner in the Twin Cities, but they didn’t have the financial backing.

1986

Cousin Alan left the business to pursue other interests, and the brothers found a financial partner. The early beginnings of Border Foods took shape. The late 80s and early 90s brought a series of ups and downs.

1992

Jeff and Lee owned 13 Taco Bell restaurants and were preparing to grow. They began developing a small team of then-district managers, many of whom are still with the company today.

1995

Taco Bell asked the brothers to purchase the remaining 63 Taco Bell locations in Minnesota. Without the financial wherewithal to complete the transaction, Jeff and Lee searched the country for the equity capital needed to complete the transaction.

Spring 1996

Jeff and Lee met with a financial partner to secure the capital for the purchase of the 63 restaurants. It was a plan-on-the-back-of-a-napkin kind of meeting, literally.

October 1996

They secured the capital, drafted a business plan and officially formed Border Foods. The transaction bumped their unit number from 13 to 76 restaurants overnight.

1999

The brothers financed the equity partner out, leaving just Jeff and Lee as owners and operators.

2000

Border Foods acquired the Wyoming market and begins experimentation with other Yum brands, opening KFCs, Pizza Huts and Au Bon Pain across the Midwest, in addition to their Taco Bell restaurants. Their restaurant count grew from 76 to 96.

2006

Border Foods moved into the Wyoming market.

2000 - 2009

Border Foods acquired the Wyoming market and begins experimentation with other Yum brands, opening KFCs, Pizza Huts and Au Bon Pain across the Midwest, in addition to their Taco Bell restaurants. Their restaurant count grew from 76 to 96.

2010 - 2011

Jeff and Lee identified Taco Bell as the break-away brand of the future and refocused their business.

2015

Border Foods acquired markets in the parts of Wisconsin and South Dakota, bumping their count to 119 restaurants.

2016 - 2017

Border Foods moved into Michigan, acquiring the Upper Peninsula and central Michigan, bumping their count from 119 to 184.

2018

On Saturday, Sept. 26, during the final night of the 2018 FRANMAC convention, Jeff and Lee Engler were bestowed the highest honor in the Taco Bell system – the Glen Bell Award

As a second-generation family business, Border Foods was honored to receive TCB Magazine’s Family Business Award during the publication’s gala event in November.

We’re more than a place to work. We’re family