The last "Taco Tuesday" at the Iguana Mexican Grill drew hundreds of loyal customers and curious newcomers Tuesday night — most of whom shared a hatred for a faraway fast food chain they had never heard of before this week.
Ryan Parrott, executive chef at the Iguana, 9 NW 9, worked furiously from 4:30 p.m. on to keep waiting customers happy as his servers wore shirts proclaiming "Taco Tuesday" even as the restaurant faces a cease-and-desist demand from Wyoming-based Taco John's to quit using the phrase it trademarked in 1989.
By 9 p.m., Steve Mason reported Taco Tuesday night sales had hit a record — more than 10 percent over the previous busiest Tuesday night.
Loyal customers like Sid Burgess, who brought his wife and two children, said he doubts the loss of the "Taco Tuesday" brand will hurt the weekly promotion, which started in 2009 as a way to celebrate the restaurant's one-year anniversary.
Burgess, like many "Taco Tuesday" participants, is an avid user of social media, which transformed what was intended to be a short-lived promotion into a weekly festival.
"Social media is all about people building relations," Burgess said. "And this is all about the people."
Burgess said he doubts the controversy will hurt the Iguana at all, adding he felt Taco John's reminded residents how important it is to support local restaurants.
"Once you go local," Burgess said, "you won't go back."
Some first-timers who showed up Tuesday night admitted they were drawn in by the discussion that exploded on Twitter. Throughout Monday evening and during the day on Tuesday, the debate was a top topic on Twitter in central Oklahoma.
Hundreds of comments supporting the Iguana and attacking Taco John's were posted on Twitter, with only one comment favoring the Wyoming chain, which has restaurants in all states surrounding Oklahoma but none in the state. Several critical comments were also posted on Taco John's Facebook page. Taco John's, meanwhile, sent out only two posts notifying visitors it has used the phrase since 1982 and had it trademarked in 1989.
Throughout the day restaurants across the country unaffiliated with Taco John's used the "Taco Tuesday" phrase — a development that did not escape online fans of the Iguana.
"I've never heard of Taco John's, and I didn't know this place existed either," said James Arnell, who spent at least 20 minutes waiting in line to find out what the fuss was about. "I know I'll never go to Taco John's, but this made me want to find out why people love this place so much."
Dana Campbell had similar reasons for giving the Iguana a try.
"I was really surprised by people making this big a deal over a name," Campbell said. "But I've seen on Twitter how they're (Parrott and restaurant owner Mason) always doing a lot of positive things for the community."
No new name was announced Tuesday for the promotions, which Parrott said will continue. Campbell suggested the name be switched to a Spanish variation of "Taco Tuesday," while others suggested adding a Twitter hashtag — "#" — to make it different from the phrase being attacked by Taco John's.