Iron Chef Jose Garces Expands Buena Onda Across America with Franchise Launch

Buena Onda at 114 S. 20th Street (Philadelphia, PA) and 200 Radnor Chester Road (Radnor, PA) are set to open in early July.

By: May. 25, 2022
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Iron Chef Jose Garces Expands Buena Onda Across America with Franchise Launch

James Beard Award winner and Iron Chef Jose Garces is teaming up with Ballard Brands to expand Buena Onda from Philadelphia to cities across America. The baja-taqueria will see a major expansion with the launch of its comprehensive national franchise program. With one brick-and-mortar and up to four more on the way, Chef Jose Garces is ready to spread good vibes through this major national expansion. Chef will team up with Ballard Brands, who are franchise veterans that own award-winning brands PJ's Coffee, WOW American Eats and New Orleans Roast. Buena Onda franchise opportunities are now available and designed to deliver a unique experience to diners in the fast casual market with the delicious chef-inspired menu and popular Baja style libations. Interested parties are invited to meet Chef Jose Garces in person and experience his food and vision at monthly franchise seminars that will kick-off in Philadelphia starting on Thursday, June 16th. For more information and to register for the seminar, visit

"From Philadelphia to America, I am thrilled to expand my baja-taqueria Buena Onda nationally through an exciting new franchise program," said Chef Jose Garces. "Our team has worked hard at developing a national expansion strategy in partnership with Ballard Brands since the pandemic began. It has been great collaborating with them to bring Buena Onda and other concepts to new places and to reach new audiences. It is exciting to bring my recipes and vision to fans and foodies across the country. We just finished going through the franchising regulation work and we are now a national brand that I am proud to put my name on. I am excited about Buena's possibilities and where this journey will take us next. The pandemic stepped in and took the wind out of our sails, but we reset ourselves, kept moving forward and we hope to announce our first franchise locations by the end of summer - if not sooner."

"In all my years of franchising, I have never been more excited about the launch of a new concept as I am today with Chef Jose Garces and Buena Onda," said Ballard Brands Chief Development Officer David Q. Mesa Jr., CFE. "What's exciting about this concept is the merging of Chef Jose's culinary expertise along with our proven franchise systems that allow it to be delivered at a high level in a very simplistic manner that allows creating the opportunity for franchisees, regardless of food experience, to explore their dreams of being in hospitality."

The national launch of Buena Onda is a story that is years - and tens of thousands of tacos - in the making. Buena Onda's roots date back to 2015, when Garces launched his first-ever fast casual restaurant in Philadelphia, PA. At the time, Buena Onda represented the 19th concept for the growing Garces collection of restaurants. The menu was designed to be Chef's ode to fish tacos and chill vibes, with inspiration taken from Baja peninsula's culture, seafood shacks, and taquerías.

"I've always loved the ocean, the sea air, the beach lifestyle," added Garces. "Whether it was spending time on the Pacific Coast of Ecuador, or the Jersey Shore. These elements come together using the Buena Onda taqueria model as the vehicle to convey good vibes."

Potential franchise investors are invited to spread good vibes and share in Chef's vision. In a world of fast casual options, Buena Onda will offer a unique, casual baja taqueria experience to guests with an appealing menu, great service, and a laid-back, beach-bum decor. The model is appealing across multiple day parts with something for the entire family. In Chef's vision, great food and great times leads to good vibes.

For this major expansion, Garces has teamed up with existing partners and the industry experts at Ballard Brands, who bring years of experience in the franchise business through WOW American Eats and PJ's Coffee of New Orleans. For Garces and Ballard Brands, the partnership is a win-win that brings the strengths of both parties to the table.

For the two entities, the partnership dates back to 2018, when Ballard Brands and Garces together created IdEATion Hospitality, where Garces currently serves as Chief Culinary Officer.

"Since Jose's partnership with Ballard Brands began in 2018, we have been working towards a national expansion strategy that capitalizes on both of our strengths," said IdEATion Hospitality COO Scott Campanella. "This strategy is realized as we couple Ballard Brands experience in the QSR market with Jose's culinary expertise and uncompromising dedication to hospitality. We are excited for the next step in this journey as we launch Buena Onda as a new national brand."

In preparation for the national launch, Garces and Ballard Brands, through IdEATtion Hospitality, have laid the groundwork for the expansion by designing a new look and feel for Buena Onda. The new design, updated menu and new operating standards will debut when Buena Onda grand opens Buena Onda in Rittenhouse Square and Buena Onda in Radnor, PA this July. At the same time, Buena Onda will see its flagship location in Fairmount neighborhood get an upgrade to match what will be the look and feel of all future locations.

Longtime fans of Buena Onda can expect a stronger nod to the beachside surf shacks that the brand is inspired by, including dune fencing and a authentic "boardwalk" feel as guests queue to order; a lighter, whitewash wood feeling and nods to an "Endless Summer' vibe throughout the interiors; the iconic menu board featuring fish tacos, fresh house made guacamole and Salsa Mexicana, quesadillas, churros, and more will hold a prominent place; as well as the addition of a variety of grab and go items like freshly made salsa, salads, and aqua frescas with seasonal flavors.

For current, pending and future locations, Garces and Ballard Brands have tapped Styer Associates for interior design and architectural needs. Styer Associates will offer a one-stop solution that offers both design and construction services, allowing for a seamless project management, and so that Garces can open new locations as efficiently as possible, minimizing setbacks and delays. Styer Associates has also been tapped to come up with the new design for other Garces projects, such as the new location footprints for Tinto Pintxo.

As part of operational changes, all new locations moving forward will feature alcoholic beverages but without the formal bar inside the dining space. The beverage programs will place an emphasis on cans and bottles, including canned Buena Onda branded Margaritas in a variety of flavors like classic, strawberry, prickly pear, etc. Look for other surprises in the beverage program line-up coming when Buena Onda debuts the new brick-and-mortar locations this summer.

In an effort to improve both guest and delivery driver experiences with the brand, each location will now incorporate design elements that provide functional storage. Incorporating design functional elements that address the nature of to go/delivery is an important factor as the concept expands and pivots. This will include a set area for pick-ups for delivery platforms and for guests for take-out.

With the approval of the franchise launch, Chef and Ballard Brands invite investors and future franchise owners to meet Chef Jose Garces in person. Spread good vibes and enjoy Buena Onda's award-winning food with Chef, and learn more about the franchise opportunities, during in-person franchise seminars every third Thursday of the month this summer. from 6:00pm to 7:30pm, at The Olde Bar (125 Walnut Street), in Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia. Dates for Philadelphia seminars will be Thursday, June 16th, Thursday, July 21, Thursday, August 18th and Thursday, September 15th. After September, look for Buena Onda franchises to launch in cities across the country, with details to be announced.

"We invite you to partner with Iron Chef and James Beard Award Winning Chef Jose Garces on his newest venture in bringing Buena Onda to the nation," said Mesa. "Buena Onda is designed to deliver a unique experience to diners in the fast casual market with a delicious chef-inspired menu and popular Baja style libations. Our innovative franchise model allows you to bring this successful concept to your favorite locations. This is a very unique opportunity in that you can open a franchise location and partner with a James Beard Award winner and Iron Chef. Let's make history together."

As Garces and Ballard prepare for their first in-person franchise seminar, they have received a letter of intent from their first investor in the tri-state mid-Atlantic region.

For foodies craving Chef's famous baja-inspired tacos now, Buena Onda is open in Philadelphia at 1901 Callowhill Street, with 1,850 square feet of space with seating inside for 36 people, and outdoor seasonal seating. Garces fans in Fairmount can currently enjoy take-out, delivery and dine-in, plus specials that include Mondays (Two Pork Al Pastor tacos for $5 and add a tecate for $1), Tuesdays (Half price margaritas, dine-in) and Thursdays ($2 Pollo Tacos). Happy hour currently runs Monday to Friday, from 5:00pm to 7:00pm, with specials on Pork Al Pastor and Pollo Tacos, Chips and Salsa Mexicana, Draft Beers and RedWhite Sangria. Hours for Fairmount currently are seven days a week, 11:00am to 9:00pm.

Buena Onda at 114 S. 20th Street (Philadelphia, PA) and 200 Radnor Chester Road (Radnor, PA) are set to open in early July. Stay tuned for ribbon cutting information coming soon.

Share the good vibes on social media with hashtag #GarcesGoodVibes and by following Buena Onda at @BuenaOndoTacos, Chef Jose Garces at @ChefJoseGarces and Garces Group at @GarcesGroup. For more information and to place an order, visit

For more information about franchise opportunities and franchise seminars, visit:


Iron Chef, father, husband, James Beard Award-winner, entrepreneur, and food innovator, Chef Jose Garces is known as a leading culinary authority of Spanish and Latin-American food. From the Spanish tapas at Amada, his first restaurant, to the playful Japanese street food at Okatshe in Atlantic City, Chef Garces continually pushes the boundaries of culinary excellence.

While he maintains his successful career owning and operating full-service restaurants, Chef Garces is also looking toward the future, with an increased focus on bringing restaurant-quality experiences to the homes and businesses of culinary enthusiasts in new and interesting ways. From enhanced home delivery options and virtual online cooking demos, to live online cooking classes, Chef Garces is excited to connect with both fans of his work on television, as well as the home cook who would like to experience "chef life" in their own kitchen. Chef Garces is the author of two cookbooks, Latin Evolution and The Latin Road Home, published by Lake Isle Press. To learn more, please visit, or follow him on social media on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.


Garces is a Philadelphia-based hospitality group specializing in personal dining experiences rooted in the rich cultural traditions and culinary vision of renowned Latin-American chef Jose Garces. Taking a heartfelt and creative approach to time-honored recipes and dishes, Garces, in partnership with New Orleans- based Ballard Brands, operates numerous restaurants including Amada, Tinto, Village Whiskey, Volvér, The Olde Bar, Buena Onda and Garces Trading Company in Philadelphia, and Amada and Distrito in the Ocean Resort Casino. The group also operates Garces Events, a full-service catering and event division; the Garces Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to Philadelphia's underserved immigrant community. For more information, visit and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


Ballard Brands is a privately held hospitality and foodservice company formed by brothers Paul, Steven and Scott Ballard. After achieving success as franchisees for Smoothie King and PJ's Coffee in Louisiana, Georgia and North Carolina, the three brothers reunited back in Louisiana to expand their footprint as PJ's franchisees and open the first WOW Cafe (now WOW American Eats) in 2001. In addition to restaurant operations, management and franchising, the Company has a large catering and special events business and a coffee and tea business. These four primary lines of business are managed from their headquarters in Mandeville, Louisiana just north of New Orleans as well as offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The brothers started out as franchisees and grew that experience and knowledge into becoming franchisors. The Franchising Division includes WOW American Eats, PJ's Coffee of New Orleans, Board House Serious Sandwiches and Buena Onda. These brands are present in 30 states as well as Vietnam and Kuwait. Today there are over 50 WOW American Eats franchised locations and over 145 PJ's Coffee of New Orleans franchised locations with another 150 locations currently in development.

The Restaurant Division is comprised of restaurants the brothers own and operate and totals 21 restaurants in 3 states. This Division expanded in July 2018 with the acquisition of the Jose Garces Restaurant Group. Today the restaurant portfolio comprises a variety of brands to include PJ's Coffee, WOW American Eats, Amada, Tinto, Village Whiskey, Olde Bar, Volver, JG Domestic and Buena Onda.

The Catering and Restaurant Management Services Division also recently expanded as part of the acquisition of the Jose Garces Restaurant Group. The full-service catering business delivers world-class cuisine and impeccable hospitality to every kind of celebration and also includes exclusive access in the Philadelphia market in venues such as the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts, the Academy of Music, the Merriam Theater and the CHUBB Hotel and Conference Center to name a few. The restaurant management business provides all restaurant related services from concept development to culinary development to restaurant management.

The Coffee and Tea Division includes a roasting and packaging facility in New Orleans where coffee is sourced from around the world and then roasted, packaged and distributed throughout the United States and to international franchisees. Coffee and Tea is sold through a wide variety of channels to include grocery, convenience and petroleum stores, foodservice, office coffee, hotels, e-commerce, retail locations and on-site food service companies. Private label options are available as well. The coffee division focuses on the top one percent of origin-based coffees and includes premium green coffee from two direct trade farms in Nicaragua and Honduras.


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