US-based franchise operator Meritage Hospitality Group has started construction on its first Taco John’s restaurant in Ohio, as part of a 50 unit development agreement.

According to the agreement, Meritage agreed to set up 50 Taco John’s restaurants by 2026, with an option to launch another 150 restaurants.

The hospitality group also gained exclusive rights to operate Taco John’s restaurants across various US states.

Ohio is the fourth of 50 Taco John’s locations planned by the company.

Meritage Hospitality Group CEO Robert Schermer said: “We are pleased to begin construction on our first Taco John’s location in Ohio, another important milestone, located in the greater Cincinnati designated market area.

“This first Ohio location represents our fourth Taco John’s under construction in 2022 and will become a certified training facility, supporting our multi-state Taco John’s roll-out plans.”

According to the company’s estimates, the initial launch comprising 50 restaurants will entail an investment of nearly $100m.

Meritage plans to fund the investment using both cash-on-hand and credit facilities.

Schermer added: “We have placed the people and resources in position to scale Taco John’s across multiple states, leveraging our best-in-class technology and accounting platforms.

“This is an exciting new quick-service restaurant brand expansion for the Company and one we believe will provide long-term profitable growth for investors and many new career opportunities for employees.

“Meritage is also uniquely positioned as the only publicly traded company associated with the privately held Taco John’s brand, thereby providing investors a means to participate in the Taco John’s national growth story.”