Foodservice: Tortillas a-Go-Go

How a piece of equipment revolutionized a c-store taco star’s foodservice program, one tortilla at a time

By  Abbey Lewis, Executive Editor

Flat, raw tortillas are fed directly onto a hot grill. They are then flipped by the machine operator, who handles two to four tortillas a time.
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Larry Gerosa is Mr. Tortilla. It’s a name that has stuck, partly because of the vast quantities of breakfast tacos his previous convenience stores peddled on a daily basis, but also for the freshly pressed and grilled tortillas that envelop those popular hand-held treats.

Gerosa has been in the c-store business since he was a young man. He worked for a few big outfits before joining the ranks of independents when he purchased two Texas c-stores called Jud’s Food Stores in 2006. Both stores were home to automatic tortilla press and grill machines.

While he is in the process of selling those two stores, Gerosa has kept one of the tortilla machines. After all, what would Mr. Tortilla be without the machine that spawned his name?

Gerosa, in fact, hopes to use it soon: He’s preparing to open a store in Fredericksburg, Texas. “The customers love [the machine] because they know the tortillas are fresh,” he says. “Of all the reasons I chose this machine, No. 1 is probably in the eight years that we’ve had them, I think I’ve had to service that machine twice. It’s a workhorse.”

At his previous stores, Gerosa could sell nearly 300 tacos per day. He certainly credits that to fresh ingredients and fine taco craftsmanship, but more than anything, he feels he owes his success to the fresh tortilla.

“They’re fabulous machines,” he says. “We put them out where customers can see them. The reason we do that is because we want the customer to know that we made these fresh.”

The Way of the Tortilla

In another life, the tacos were made from scratch. From the making of the dough to rolling, weighing, pressing and grilling the tortilla, it was all done completely by hand. “We ran for eight and a half years,” Gerosa recalls. “That whole program was designed from scratch with one lady. She would come in and make the masa and she would roll it out.

“We didn’t have a scale, but she could tell by gravity what the weight was. We’d roll them out and cook them. When we got the machine, she thought she was in heaven.”

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