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Q&A: It’s good to be king

Mighty Taco CEO Russell Jasulevich is relatively new to the gig…but he’s not new to Buffalo’s most beloved tacos, having served the last 10 years as company COO. He’s ingrained in the quirky company culture, a brand backed by food that Buffalo expatriates crave by name — and that multiple generations of locals still inhale on the regular. This month, Mighty Taco celebrates 45 years in business and 23 locations in Buffalo and Rochester. Mighty run, anyone?

What is your history with Mighty Taco?

Previous to this, Santa Barbara was home. One could say the call of the Mighty was strong; strong enough to recall me to WNY where I was born, raised, and dare I say, have re-rooted. Having been the COO(L) guy for the majority of this time, the CEO title, also referred to as “chief cook and bottle washer,” is a recent 2018 development.

What makes the restaurant so eternally beloved?

It’s the food! Wait, no, it’s the speed of service. Wait, no, it’s the employees. Wait, no, it’s the advertising. Wait, no, it’s the price/value relationship. Wait, no, it’s the clean restaurants. Ah, heck, it’s all of the above! We are constantly amazed by the memories customers share with us of their late-night, after-the-bars-close experiences at the original location. And when I see multiple generations of families sitting together in the dining room today, it’s clearly a tradition, a truly WNY tradition, that continues to be passed down from generation to generation.

What’s your favorite Mighty Taco ad?

Wow! Pushing me in a corner, eh? Sooo many to choose from. Sort of like my children, if I had any. They are all my favorites. (I had to say that!) For TV, let’s go with “Old Gold;” bring your unused or unwanted gold and jewelry…or maybe the 2012 BBQ pulled pork “Pigs Will Fly?” Call it a tie.

(Hungry for more? See all the old commercials in their ad vault.)

What’s your usual Mighty order?

No usual order here! But if you press me to admit my favorite, it’s the Fajita Chicken Grill Pressed Quesadilla, with crumbled bacon and mild banana peppers, medium sauce, side of strip chips, nacho cheese, and a medium diet Pepsi. Did I say that out loud?

What’s the most popular menu item in 2018?

It’s still definitely the Super Mighty Burrito, on white, hot, with sour cream. The Chicken Fajita is a close second, and not to be underestimated, the ever-popular Buffito shows in the top three.

Favorite WNY restaurant when you’re not eating at Mighty?

There’s another benefit of residing in WNY: So many good ones, and the choice typically depends on the craving or event associated with going out. A shout out to my go-tos; Bacchus, Smoke on the Water, Tempo and Webster’s Bistro & Bar. Oh, and Left Bank as well!

Has the recent influx of new fast-casual taco places in Buffalo affected business?

Surprisingly enough, it’s helped us! We attribute it to two not-so-surprising factors. Western New Yorkers who have opted to experience the plethora of new offerings in the market have found that a) they prefer the tastes of home, and b) that Mighty still ranks as the more affordable option.

Do people in Rochester “get” Mighty like Buffalonians do?

They got it all right! Opening week in Henrietta, the lines were wrapped throughout the inside of the dining room, out the door, and extended through the parking lot and plaza. They indeed got it, get it, and are still getting it.

What’s the future for Mighty Taco?

Continued mightiness of course! We are just about complete with implementing a new state-of-the art POS (point of sale) system in all our restaurants. With these implementations, Combos, at $1 off, are expanded to any menu item that comes on a Burrito-sized shell! It’s make your own combo time! Customer can now pay with their mobile app, or with any other payment method they choose. Soon, couponing will be fully digitized. We look forward to having our own Order in Advance for Pickup App live by year-end. Our delivery territory with Grubhub and UberEATS will expand as they expand their delivery territory; perhaps additional delivery companies will be brought on board as well. Self-Ordering Kiosks, you ask? Time will tell. Expansion? Always one eye open for the right opportunity.

Best place for tacos outside WNY?

Back in the Santa Barbara area: Pepe’s! An enduring eatery for traditional Mexican fare. Now my mouth is watering. Ah, the memories...

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