“I’m very proud of you.”
Those five words still linger with Conner Cupit, mostly because of who they came from.
He remembers Rusty Fenton standing next to him despite Rusty’s ongoing battle with kidney cancer, repeating that phrase to him. He often reflects on that moment, in early 2013, as they stood in the dining area of a brand new Rusty Taco — Conner’s very first franchise location — while the room filled up with guests.
The restaurant’s opening in Denton, Texas, would be one of the last times Conner saw him face-to-face before Rusty, the founder of Rusty Taco, passed away just one month later.
“It was one of the defining moments of my young career, and is something that will stay with me forever.” Conner Cupit, Rusty Taco franchisee
Conner is currently the largest franchisee in the Rusty Taco organization, and he continues to represent the vision of what Rusty set out to build: bringing great food, drinks and friendly service to local communities.
Like Rusty, Conner’s passion for the industry started at a young age.
Conner spent much of his adolescent years bussing tables in East Texas before transitioning to other traditional restaurant gigs — waiting tables, cooking and bartending while attending school at Baylor. As his career developed, he found himself at corporations such as Brinker International and Pepsi Co.
Yet, Conner had an “entrepreneurial itch” that he was determined to follow through with. He started looking at different restaurant concepts in 2010, and Rusty Taco piqued his interest.
“I finally got up the courage to meet with Rusty and convince him that I was the right guy to take this concept forward, in whatever capacity — franchisee, joint venture partner, whatever,” Conner said.
“We sat down on the patio and talked for about two hours.
Rusty just had this larger than life persona, and I loved his passion for making people happy and doing it through Rusty Taco.” Conner Cupit, Rusty Taco franchisee
Conner left that meeting with an agreement in place to build his first franchise restaurant. In 2012, Conner’s company, Greenbriar Restaurant Holdings, began working with Rusty to understand and embody what the Rusty Taco brand represented.
“I wanted to immerse myself into the business and the brand’s DNA. I wanted to see the way Rusty interacted with guests and how he created the culture with his team in the restaurants. I wanted to be around as much as I could,” Conner said.
Conner and Greenbriar Restaurant Holdings continue to pass on those learnings from Rusty as their portfolio has expanded to six Rusty Taco locations throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
“This brand is the culmination of Rusty’s life’s work.
Rusty believed in the people around him, and I think it has served the brand very well.” Conner Cupit, Rusty Taco franchisee