The History of Taco Tuesday
Photo from Backyard Taco
Originally Posted On: https://backyardtaco.com/blog/history-taco-tuesday/
No matter who you are or where you’re from, there’s a strong chance that you’re familiar with the meaning of “Taco Tuesday.” Maybe it’s because you indulge in a taco or two (or more, we won’t judge) each and every Tuesday. Or maybe you’ve simply heard enough Taco Tuesday jokes to get the idea.
Regardless of your personal experience with it, in many ways, the idea of Taco Tuesday has become something of an American tradition.
At Backyard Taco, we have a passion for what we do. Not only do we love to serve up a good taco, we also want to help spread the interesting history of the taco as a popular food item outside of Mexico, its place of origin. Believe it or not, this history isn’t always simple or straight forward. Certainly, it isn’t free of conflict or disagreements, which continue to develop, even to this day.
Basically, there is a surprising amount of contention, when it comes to the American interpretation of the taco. In particular, Taco Tuesday has led to significant tensions over the years, largely due to the uncertain origins or ownership over the famous phrase. Still, no matter what any singular entity claims, is it even possible to truly own the idea of Taco Tuesday? Or, is this simply a commonplace phrase, rather than one that any business can claim ownership of?
Not everyone in the restaurant world agrees on the answer to these questions. So, today, we’d like to discuss the fascinating (and often complicated) history of Taco Tuesday.
WHAT IS THE ACTUAL MEANING OF TACO TUESDAY?
First, it’s important that we establish exactly what we mean when we say Taco Tuesday. If anything, Taco Tuesday has become a widespread custom throughout the United States. There’s a number of ways for Taco Tuesday to be recognized and participated in.
For some people, Taco Tuesday might simply entail going out and getting tacos, or even just preparing their own. However, from the restaurant marketing perspective, the meaning is a bit narrower.
The offering of taco specials is the crux of Taco Tuesday, for restaurants. This includes both Mexican establishments as well as any other business that serves some form of tacos. Typically, these tacos will come at a lower price on Tuesdays, in comparison to other days of the week.
While Taco Tuesday is prolific all over the United States (and in many other countries), it’s especially popular throughout Southern California. Beach cities in this region have developed a serious fondness for Taco Tuesday specials.
There is no universal standard for how restaurants should approach this particular tradition. Much like Happy Hour, the specific conditions of Taco Tuesday can vary quite a bit from one location to the next. Different specials are likely to be offered at different establishments, and the hours at which the deals are applicable vary as well.
TACO TUESDAY HISTORY: WHERE DID THE PHRASE COME FROM?
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Although some entities will claim otherwise, the origins of Taco Tuesday aren’t exactly simple to trace. For one, the idea of offering discounted tacos every Tuesday is a concept that’s prevailed for decades—even before the alliterative couplet of Taco Tuesday was coined in the first place. In that sense, the idea of Taco Tuesday has actually been around even longer than the phrase Taco Tuesday itself.
The trademark status of Taco Tuesday has led to some serious legal disagreements over the years. To start, the legal owner of Taco Tuesday® is actually Taco John’s, a popular Midwestern chain of Mexican restaurants. This sounds pretty straight forward on the surface, but there’s a wide variety of other factors that need to be considered. Well, isn’t Taco Tuesday just a common phrase? Can a common phrase ever be trademarked by a single business entity? Plus, is it even true that Taco John’s was the first American restaurant to use the phrase Taco Tuesday, as a means to promote discounted tacos on Tuesdays? This is where things get complicated.
FIGHTING TO USE THE PHRASE TACO TUESDAY
Taco John’s has actually built quite the reputation for themselves over the years, due to their hard insistence that they’re the creators (and thus, the rightful owners) of Taco Tuesday. Over
the years, Taco John’s has become increasingly infamous for their frequent cease and desist notices sent to smaller businesses, all of whom use the phrase Taco Tuesday in their marketing. Although these efforts haven’t been especially effective, Taco John’s continues to fight for the phrase Taco Tuesday, so that they can have it all to themselves.
In 1989, Taco Tuesday® became a legal registered trademark of the Taco John’s restaurant chain. The only state that this trademark doesn’t apply is in New Jersey, seeing as Taco Tuesday was already trademarked by another business, several years earlier—but we’ll return to that.
On more than one occasion, Taco John’s has threatened legal action against smaller restaurants who provide weekly discounted tacos under the name of Taco Tuesday. Overall, this campaign hasn’t been especially effective at eliminating other restaurants’ usage of Taco Tuesday. Considering this has actually become a commonplace phrase, it’s increasingly difficult to legally regulate the use of it, even if an entity has already been granted the trademark.
THE ACTUAL ORIGINS OF TACO TUESDAY
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It’s actually pretty easy to disprove most of Taco John’s claims, despite their insistence that they were the creators of Taco Tuesday. In reality, it’s actually clear to see that this is far from the case. Even before Taco John’s filed for the Taco Tuesday trademark, both the concept and the phrase were already in use by a number of other Mexican restaurants, across the United States.
Due to their changing and conflicting stories, Taco John’s claims to have invented the phrase Taco Tuesday either in 1979, 1982, or 1983, depending on which statement you’re looking at. However, even using the earliest possible year, Taco John’s would not have been the first entity to use the phrase Taco Tuesday. In fact, by 1979, the phrase had already been in use for nearly a decade. Still, the tradition of Taco Tuesday goes back even further.
It’s possible to find advertisements of special Tuesday taco deals as far back as the 1930s. In particular, the earliest reference to this tradition can be found in the El Paso Herald-Post, under the classifieds section of the paper. In October 1933, White Star Cafeteria created a weeklong campaign in order to let locals know that they were offering “Mexican tacos” each Tuesday.
Throughout the next several decades, a number of restaurants had designated Tuesday as the day for special deals on tacos. Sometimes, these businesses would even come close to using the phrase “Taco Tuesday,” itself.
Still, the earliest use of the specific couplet can be sourced back to 1973; we know that, at the very least, this is the earliest documented use. So, what restaurant was using this phrase? Hint: It wasn’t Taco John’s.
More specifically, it was the Snow White Drive In that used the phrase in South Dakota’s Rapid City Journal. Just a couple of years after that, in 1975, the phrase was also used by Marti’s, a restaurant in Manhattan, Kansas. Both of these documented instances occurred prior to when Taco John’s claims to have crafted the phrase.
THE TACO TUESDAY TRADEMARK IN NEW JERSEY: WHO OWNS IT?
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As we’ve mentioned, Taco John’s doesn’t own the registered trademark for Taco Tuesday® in the state of New Jersey. Instead, the phrase was already registered by Gregory’s Restaurant and Bar in 1979. However, this registration was only applicable to New Jersey, rather than the entire nation. Again, this is further evidence of Taco Tuesday’s more complicated origins that go against the clear-cut story that Taco John’s will typically tout.
IN CONCLUSION: IT’S DIFFICULT TO TRACE THE ORIGINS OF TACO TUESDAY
Even if Taco John’s claims that this isn’t the case, the reality of the matter is that the origins of Taco Tuesday are murky at best. The concept of offering taco specials on Tuesdays has been around for nearly a century, and the use of the phrase began just a few decades later.
It’s also worth noting that, because Taco Tuesday is a simple phrase, there’s a decent chance that several entities might have come up with it independently of one another. This only makes the issue of its origins more complicated. Still, it’s often argued that no one business or entity should be able to own a phrase such as Taco Tuesday. Not only is it incredibly simple, but also, it’s become quite commonplace throughout the United States. As such, it’s difficult to successfully enforce any sort of trademark or legal claim.
However, despite these complicated origins, Taco Tuesday is no less of a fun tradition for many individuals, both nationally and internationally.
CELEBRATE TACO TUESDAY IN ARIZONA AT BACKYARD TACO
Arizona loves to celebrate Taco Tuesday, and that’s where Backyard Taco comes in. In honor of the tried-and-true culinary tradition, we offer discounts on tacos each and every Tuesday, we always have!
Taco Tuesday at Backyard Taco includes the following discounts:
- Carne Asada (Steak) Tacos for $2.25 (normally $2.90)
- Birria (Shredded Beef) Tacos for $2.25 (normally $2.90)
- Pollo (Chicken) Tacos for $2.00 (normally $2.65)
- Al Pastor (Pork) Tacos for $2.00 (normally $2.65)
These deals are applicable every Tuesday, but we’d love to see you at any point in the week. No matter when you arrive, we’ll have fresh, affordable tacos waiting just for you. So, come on by and load up on delicious tacos and more, all for an unbeatable price! You can always check out our menu for more information.