You’ve probably heard the phrase Taco Tuesday before. For many people, Taco Tuesday is an excuse to go out on a Tuesday night and get a deal on tacos and margaritas. Delicious tacos and tasty margaritas all for a discounted price? Count me in!
But where does that phrase come from? Yes, the alliteration sounds nice to the ear, but is that all it is? A catchy phrase to use as an excuse to eat tacos on a Tuesday night? There’s actually an even better story about the origins of Taco Tuesday.
The History of Taco Tuesday
Restaurants have offered deals on tacos for years before the phrase caught on. The El Paso Herald-Postran an advertisement in 1933 for The White Star Cafeteria at the St. Regis promoting their Mexican tacos – three for just 15 cents. Other restaurants offered Tuesday taco deals like free tacos on Tuesday or free coffee with every purchase of tacos. Though these restaurants did not use the exact phrase “Taco Tuesday” to promote their taco deals, the sentiment behind offering discounts on Tuesdays remained strong in the restaurant industry.
The first official documentation of the phrase “Taco Tuesday” was in a 1973 edition of the Rapid City Journal. The Snow White Drive-In in South Dakota encouraged people to stop by their restaurant on Tuesdays and order some tacos. Then, Baker’s Drive-Thru advertised their Taco Tuesday deal in a 1976 edition of the Progress Bulletin in California. Baker’s still uses this phrase without a trademark to this day.
Up until 1989, restaurants used the phrase “Taco Tuesday” amicably to promote their taco deals. In 1989, Taco John’s, a large chain restaurant in the Midwest, filed for and received a national trademark for the phrase. Their website still promotes their trademark today: “Ever hear of Taco Tuesday®? We started it! We even trademarked it. That’s how seriously we take tacos.”
Taco John’s trademark for the phrase “Taco Tuesday” has caused some legal issues for them and other restaurants. The use of the trademark brings up questions about the legitimacy of being able to trademark a seemingly common phrase. Can a restaurant trademark a phrase that’s been around for years? Can Taco John’s claim that they coined the phrase? The short answer is – legally yes they can.
They were the first restaurant to apply for a national trademark, so they own the rights to that phrase. Even though history proves that Taco John’s was in fact not the first restaurant to advertise their taco deals with the phrase “Taco Tuesday,” they still own the legal rights to the wording.
Taco John’s has become infamous for sending cease and desist letters to small businesses who use the phrase “Taco Tuesday,” but their legal threats cannot stop restaurants from offering delicious taco deals on Tuesdays. Their aggressive tactics to prevent people from using the phrase isn’t a good look for Taco John’s and they’ve probably become more well-known because of their legal issues rather than their taco deals.
However, there’s a reason why Taco John’s continuously defends their trademark. In order to keep their trademark, Taco John’s must make sure that people associate their restaurants with the phrase. If they don’t, competitors can challenge the trademark and revoke Taco John’s legal privileges. That’s why, for decades, Taco John’s legal team defends their use of the phrase. Even still, many restaurants continue to use the phrase – at the risk of facing the wrath from Taco John’s – and promote their Tuesday taco deals.
Taco John’s might face trademark challenges after the famous NBA star Lebron James filed for a trademark on the phrase Taco Tuesday in 2019. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) denied his petition for a trademark stating the phrase is too commonplace and widely used for a person to trademark it. James wanted to trademark the phrase to ensure he wouldn’t be sued for using the phrase. However, he was satisfied with the ruling because that means that anyone can freely use the phrase “Taco Tuesday” and express their love for tacos.
If Lebron James decides to take further action, he could petition the USPTO to remove Taco John’s current trademark on the phrase. As of right now, he hasn’t taken those legal steps, and the trademark still belongs to Taco John’s.
So there’s the somewhat messy history of Taco Tuesday. Despite Taco John’s insistence that they were the first restaurant to use the phrase, Taco Tuesday remains a fun, lighthearted tradition for people to enjoy tasty tacos with friends and family on a Tuesday.
Taco Deals at Esmeralda’s 2.0
At Esmeralda’s 2.0, we solved the issue of dealing with the legal mess of Taco Tuesday. We offer $1 tacos EVERYDAY! You can come celebrate Taco Tuesday on an actual Tuesday, or you can come in any other day and get the same deal!
If you’re gluten free, vegetarian, or want some meat in your tacos, we’ve got you covered.