Episode Highlights

  • Matt begins the episode by talking about one of his favorite menu items – the Street Corn En Fuego. Even though it feels indulgent, it includes very healthy, organic ingredients and it’s pretty light, but packs a punch.
  • Matt describes the Madera Group, a restaurant group that includes four different brands – most notably Tocaya Organica, Toca Madera, Casa Madera and the new virtual brand – Burritos Locos. 
  • Tocaya Organica, a design-forward, digital-forward fast casual restaurant with 17 locations, is an LA-hot spot and has sites throughout southern California and Arizona. 
  • Matt got his start in restaurant marketing when he took an internship with an agency called the Suma Group, where Matt eventually become a partner. He was at Suma Group for 5 years, then moved from NY to LA to become Tocaya’s CMO.
  • He discusses how Tocaya has elevated the fast casual experience, by bringing back romanticism and paying attention to every detail – they have in-house music director that arranges custom Spotify playlists for guests, and they have gold forks at every table.
  • Tocaya’s brand promise includes two main components, 1) To make eating well effortless and 2) Create differentiated hospitality experiences.
  • During COVID, Tocaya’s operations and marketing teams quickly implemented a meal prep service which contributed to almost 15% of sales.
  • Recently they revamped Tocaya’s “to-go” bag and partnered with fashion influencers on Instagram to help promote the bag. The bag now serves as a billboard for the brand and emulates a fashion accessory. It’s a social media sensation with a cult-like following.
  • Matt talks about unique brand partnerships he’s built, most notably a collaboration with MedMen – a cannabis dispensary in California. The MedMen partnership included a treat receipt campaign which has been very effective for both brands.
  • One of the company’s biggest initiatives during the pandemic has been the launch of a completely new brand – Burritos Loco. The brand is a super indulgent offer, and serves as Tocaya Organica’s “evil cousin.”
  • Today Matt is focused on creating the perfect off-premises experience. Creating that same great experience off-site. When they cater meals to offices they deliver Spotify playlists along with the food.
  • With technology, Matt aims to not “be different for different’s sake” but to take what’s worked in the past and put the company’s unique spin on things. They want to be more bespoke when it comes to digital and partnerships. 
  • An unexpected surprise (and marketers dream) occurred when John Legend tweeted about the brand through a Postmates social media campaign to support local restaurants during COVID. Sweeeeet!
  • Matt’s biggest challenge is the current market uncertainty and not knowing the long-term effects of the pandemic.
  • Matt’s advice for other marketers – “don’t be afraid to take risks; and focus on what you can control.” 

Top Talking Points // Quotables

  • Matt Smith stated, “We’re not just organic for organic’s sake. We’re trying to be smart about what’s organic. Not every ingredient in the world needs to be organic.”
  • Matt discusses the Tocaya Organica brand, “The idea with everything that we’re doing is we want to bring back romanticism to hospitality without losing the speed that people love about fast casual.”
  • Matt talks about the company’s commitment to the experience, “We respect the fast casual space. We respect the industry leaders, but we also feel that, in their journey to success, we’ve lost some of the joy of dining out. You’re seeing restaurant brands stamp out these boxes that feel kind of, industrial and ‘warehousey’ and have hard seating. And it’s extremely transactional. They want you in, they want you out. We’re the opposite.”
  • Overall, Matt states “Every thing we do is going to have our own unique spin on it, no matter how small. So, we don’t settle for templated emails that we send through a dashboard, where we get our data. That’s not good enough for us. We’ll take the extra time. Make some beautiful creative, so it speaks more to what we believe in. Creativity, is always, I want to say always going to come first, but it’s always going to be one of the biggest things that we focus on because it’s worked so well for us up to this point.”
  • He describes Madera’s leadership team as “entrepreneurial and creative leaders that believe in brand and design.” They take alternative, out-of-the-box approaches to everything they do.
  • Meal prep became our focus during the pandemic because it solved many of consumer’s problems — they didn’t have to go to the grocery store. It filled a need.”
  • Matt’s spot-on advice to marketers: 
    • “There’s too much copy-cat stuff going on. Everyone wants to be the next Chipotle, but you’ll never catch them. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and take risks.”
    • “Worry about the things you can control. Work hard, do the right thing, and focus on what you can control.

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