What’s in a name?

Chubby’s Taco owner looks to change name, expand business
Dec. 18, 2013 @ 05:58 PM

The idea for the name “Chubby’s Tacos” came about one night when owner Jody Lytton was tossing around ideas with his former business partner. “Chubby” was the name of his former partner’s dog.

The name is cute and catchy, but it’s got to go, according to Lytton. He’s put out a call for suggestions to replace it. For the winning suggestion, he’s offering free food for a year from the local, more than five-year-old Mexican food restaurant chain.

He’s already received “a lot” of suggestions, he said. Some are good, some are not. He received one suggestion for “In Queso Emergency.” Another suggestion was for “Juarez Your Problemo.”

“What I’m really looking for is something that rolls off the tongue,” Lytton said.

He’s planning to change the name to prepare for a business expansion. First, he plans to open a new restaurant in Cary. Eventually, he wants to franchise the concept and expand out of state. And to do that, he said, he has to have a trademarked name.

A restaurant in Colorado already owns the rights to the name “El Chubby’s” in connection with Mexican food and services. Lytton said he consulted with an attorney, and found using the Chubby’s name wouldn’t work.

“It’s one where you’re not going to win the battle,” he said.

Lytton said he also heard about how Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries, had to change its name as the Mount Olive-based restaurant chain was expanding outside the state.

Then known as “Andy’s Cheesesteaks & Cheeseburgers,” Hwy 55 first opened in 1991 in Goldsboro. The business expanded, and there were nearly 100 restaurants in the chain in North Carolina and othrer states when the company changed its name, said Bobby Parker, the company’s vice president of marketing.

Parker said a company in Missouri owned the trademark for “Andy’s Frozen Custard Inc.” So the company made the change in February of last year. Parker said the name change has been a challenge in eastern North Carolina, where the business has a long history.

“We’ve had stories where the founder of the company went through a divorce; she got half,” he said. “They’re still happily married and that’s not true either. So we have to deal with those types of stories where people think that they know what’s going on. The truth is, it’s still Andy’s on the inside; it’s Hwy 55 outside.”

Lytton said in an email that customers aren’t happy about the change, but he said he believes they’re also behind what he wants to do.

Chubby’s now has two locations in Durham and two in Raleigh, and Lytton said he’s in lease negotiations to open a fifth in Cary. He’s working with a consultant to prepare to franchise the concept.

“We’ll probably be ready in the middle of next year to start bringing in prospective franchisees,” he said.

The first restaurant opened on Ninth Street in Durham in 2008.  Lytton co-founded the company while still working at IBM Corp. as an electrical engineer. 

For four years, he worked at both businesses. To see if he wanted to get into restaurants, he said he had taken some business and culinary arts classes. He also spent some time working at a local restaurant chain.

“I ended up being fairly social,” Lytton said. “Getting more involved with restaurants was awesome.”

Last year, he went full-time at Chubby’s after he was laid off by the New York-based technology company. IBM cut as many as 1,200 people last year by March, according to Alliance@ IBM/CWA Local 170, an employee group that wants bargaining rights with the company.

For the new name, he said he’s received a handful of good suggestions as well as “a lot of silly ones.”

He wants the new name to have some hint that the business sells Mexican food. The name could include Spanish-language words or words that reference Mexican cities, locations, points of interest or food items.

He said the name needs to be fun andintriguing, and also to have a good visual presentation. He said he can’t use alternatives spellings to “Chubby’s” or use translations, which means no “gordita” or “gordito.”

However, he said it is possible to use “chubby” as an adjective, and so are made-up names such as “Chubbychangas.”

“The name should sound fun,” he said in an email. “Think about if you were looking for somewhere to eat -- and you read that name in Yelp or Google, would you be intrigued enough to go there?”

Lytton is accepting suggestions made in person in the restaurants or by e-mail to jody@chubbystacos.com.