SoKno Taco Cantina is a new taco restaurant set to open in a few weeks in, appropriately, South Knoxville. We spoke with owner Ryan Steffy about his plans for the new restaurant, what got him into tacos in the first place, and his goals for his new business and the community around him.
Why did you start your business?
We love the restaurant business! It’s an opportunity to bring together and help communities (and have fun at the same time). For that reason, we are very excited to be opening SoKno Taco Cantina in South Knoxville. This is a great area of Knoxville that is filled with beautiful outdoor biking/hiking trails and an awesome community.
Why did you choose this type of business?
Who doesn’t love tacos!? Our sister restaurant, Holy Taco Cantina, in Johnson City has been a huge success. We have been wanting to bring that concept to Knoxville for a long time, but were just waiting on the right location to open in South Knoxville.
What is your background? What in your background did you find particularly helpful getting started or in day-to-day operations?
All of our partners have worked in the service industry. We have held positions ranging from security to bartender. We have all done a little of everything and have learned a lot along the way. When doing anything for a long period of time you start to view things differently and see how you can improve. We have taken our past experiences, good and bad, and have used them to develop SoKno Taco Cantina.
What do you think gives you an edge over your competitors?
We are locally owned. Our ownership is very involved in the community and strive to leave a positive impact in the communities we operate in. We’re not out to compete with anybody. We understand that is the nature of business, but we are only focused on providing a quality locally owned restaurant to South Knoxville.
What’s your ideal customer like? Is that the type of customer you expected to attract when you first opened?
There is no one “style” of customer. That is what makes this industry great. Every single person that walks through our doors is completely different from the person that walked in before them and brings something new and unique with them.
What do you think keeps your customers coming back?
Service. Our food and beverages will speak for themselves. But it is the service that will keep people coming back. SoKno Taco is a neighborhood restaurant, not just because we are located in a neighborhood, but because when you walk in you feel at home.
What are the biggest challenges you faced getting started?
Everything is a challenge when starting a business. There wasn’t one thing that was tougher than the rest or anything that was unexpected. But in general, it’s always going to be a challenge when starting a new business.
What are you most proud of?
Just being part of the process of starting a business from the beginning. We literally have hand laid the pavers stones that make up our parking lot. Seeing this building evolve from what it was to what it is and what it is going to be has definitely been an awesome experience.
What do you recommend your customers check out when they visit?
Well, we offer 24 beers on tap and assorted bottles, wines, and liquors. And of course amazing tacos! But I think one of our coolest features is our margaritas. Not only are they really good, but we will have them on tap! We have a custom built tap system just for our margaritas.
What’s your goal with your business, personally or professionally, in the next ten years?
We want to be and remain a huge part of the community in South Knoxville. If we focus on that and provide quality products and service, everything else will work itself out.
What is your fondest memory with your business? What was your greatest success?
Having the opportunity to provide a business that not only brings us success, but in turn the community success is our greatest success. And being able to do this with my friends is just an added bonus.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
We will be opening soon, so keep on the look out!