37°25′59.2″N 121°53′50.9″W / 37.433111°N 121.897472°W / 37.433111; -121.897472

El Torito
FounderLarry J. Cano
United States
Websitewww.eltorito.com Edit this on Wikidata

El Torito (Spanish for "the little bull") is an American chain that serves Mexican food. El Torito operates 69 restaurants primarily in California.[1] El Torito is one of several Mexican cuisine restaurant chains operated by Xperience Restaurant Group.

Founded in 1954, El Torito claims to be "a pioneer in the California full service Mexican casual dining restaurant segment."[1]


El Torito was founded in 1954 by Larry J. Cano.[2] Cano had served tours in the U.S Army in Europe and Korea, earned a business degree and worked tending bar. In 1954 he was managing a Polynesian restaurant. When the restaurant’s owner died, his widow gave Cano the restaurant. He began serving Mexican food at the restaurant and it became the first El Torito. Cano, at one point began struggling financially and moved into the restaurant.[2]

Within three years the restaurant became successful, and Cano opened additional locations. By 1976 he had 20 locations, and sold the business to W. R. Grace and Company for about $20 million. They hired Cano as the president with a directive for rapid expansion.[2]

Grace sold its restaurants in a leveraged buyout in 1986. The resulting firm, Restaurant Enterprises Group, Inc. (REGI), filed for bankruptcy in 1993. REGI was acquired out of bankruptcy in 1994 by Foodmaker, who renamed itself Family Restaurants, then Koo Koo Roo Enterprises, then Prandium. In 2000, Acapulco bought El Torito from Prandium.[3] Acapulco renamed its parent company to Real Mex Restaurants in 2004 and moved the headquarters to Cypress, California.[2]

In February 1994, engineers working on an extension of the CD-ROM specification visited El Torito in Irvine and later named the specification after the restaurant.[4]

On October 3, 2011, Real Mex Restaurants filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced that it was putting itself up for sale, citing the poor economy as a reason. No plans were announced to close restaurants or layoff staff.[5] It was acquired by a group of its noteholders in a bankruptcy auction in 2012.[6]

In 2018, FM Restaurants HoldCo, LLC acquired Real Mex Restaurants out of bankruptcy and begun operating under Xperience Restaurant Group led by Randy Sharpe, former vice president of operations of the El Torito division. [7] In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the group begun renovating 19 of their 31 locations in Southern California. [8]


  1. ^ a b About El Torito Archived 2009-03-16 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b c d OC Weekly. "El Torito Founder Is Still the Big Enchilada Archived 2012-08-18 at the Wayback Machine." January 6, 2011.
  3. ^ Acapulco Chain Owner to Buy El Torito
  4. ^ Parker, Dana J. "Fresh Tortillas and CD-ROM Standards: The El Torito Bootable CD-ROM Specification". CD-ROM Professional. Vol. 8, no. 7. Archived from the original on 1999-10-08. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  5. ^ Sharron, Bernstein (2011-10-04). "Chevy's, Acapulco Chains File for Bankruptcy". Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  6. ^ Bankruptcy court approves Real Mex sale
  7. ^ Taylor, October 2018 Rachel (31 October 2018). "Real Mex Restaurants Rebrands After Acquisition by Z Capital". FSR magazine. Retrieved 2022-10-03.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "Newly Renovated Locations". El Torito. Retrieved 2022-10-03.