Regional Restaurant Chain With 140 Locations Files For Bankruptcy, Closing 11 Locations

Tijuana Flats, a Central Florida Tex-Mex restaurant chain, has recently announced its filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The company, which was founded by Brian Wheeler in Winter Park, Florida, in 1995, has made the difficult decision to close 11 of its locations across four southeastern states.

Despite this setback, Tijuana Flats remains committed to revitalizing its restaurants and enhancing the overall customer experience under new ownership.

In a statement to FOX Business, Wheeler expressed his heartbreak at the current situation, noting that at the time of his departure in 2015, the company had grown to 140 locations across five states, employing 3,000 individuals. “It’s truly heartbreaking to witness the careers and livelihoods of so many dedicated individuals affected by the unforeseen downturn of something I had devoted the majority of my life,” he said.

The new ownership group, Flatheads, LLC, has taken over from the previous owner, TJF USA, LLC.

CEO Joe Christina, who joined the company in November 2022, expressed his excitement about the new ownership group’s plan to reinvest, focus, and emphasize the elements that initially drew people to love Tijuana Flats. “We understand the immediate financial actions taken by them to ensure the long-term health of this great and iconic brand,” Christina stated in a press release.

Financial restructuring plans for Tijuana Flats began in November 2023, with the company considering various options, including a potential sale.

The decision to close 11 locations was based on a thorough analysis of each unit’s financial performance, occupancy costs, and market conditions.

Despite the closures, Tijuana Flats remains committed to supporting its franchisees and ensuring that the remaining locations continue to operate as usual.

The company currently has 65 company-owned locations throughout Florida and 26 franchised restaurants across all four states in which it operates.

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Wheeler, who is now focusing on his new Tex-Mex restaurant, Big Taco, in Casselberry, expressed his disappointment at the decline of the brand he built with passion and dedication. “It’s deeply disappointing to witness the decline of a brand that was built with so much passion and dedication. However, the decisions made post-sale were out of my hands, and it’s unfortunate to see the outcome of those choices,” he said.