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A Strange, Rusty Rebranding

People hate change, and I am one of them. Whether it’s a new version of a car or a company I like changing its name, I’m often skeptical and long for things to remain way they used to be.

Seriously, the 1990 Nissan Maxima was the best iteration of a car that’s since grown bloated and lame. It’s still Prince AND THE REVOLUTION to me. And that new Google font? Come on now—it’s bland and soulless. Or so I think today. I’ll likely come around with time.

And so it goes with the unexpected rebranding of Rusty Taco, a Dallas-based taco shop that was purchased by Minneapolis-based Buffalo Wild Wings last year. Named for the company’s late co-founder, Rusty Fenton, who passed away in 2013, the company announced last week it’s now going by “R Taco.”

I’m not a fan.

The first Rusty Taco in Minneapolis opened a few years ago not far from my house, and I’ve been a loyal patron from the start. (Those fried chicken tacos, I’m tellin’ you.) I’ve found it an amusing name that many young (read: less mature) people might associate with some Urban Dictionary-worthy terms I’m unwilling to discuss in a professional forum. It’s funny, and good dinnertime conversation fodder.

Citing a desire for a “broader base of appeal” in explaining the change, co-founder Steve Dunn said R Taco will better preserve Rusty’s memory than the original, Rusty Taco. Apparently, people are going to be coming into the store and asking who R was, which, from an outsider’s perspective, makes no sense.

I don't want to be insensitive to Rusty’s memory, or the branding challenge for his widow, Denise Fenton, and other company executives, but that’s a strange justification for a name change that, at first blush, feels quite generic. And there’s no innuendo with the letter R.

Rebranding isn’t easy, a topic I covered HERE back in the March issue of sister publication Franchise Times, but I often wonder where is the courageous board member, exec or employee to speak up and say, “Excuse me, but R Taco is just flat-out boring.”

I’ve seen little impact from BWW’s takeover of Rusty Taco, but I’m hoping the next change will be firmly in the “positive” category.

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