Emerging Brands

Dos Toros heats up catering to power its growth

The fast-casual burrito chain is unlocking its secret to catering: Keep it simple.
Photograph courtesy of Dos Toros

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The concept: Dos Toros Taqueria

The details: A 21-unit fast-casual burrito-and-bowl concept that started in 2012, headquartered in New York City. The chain also has stores in Chicago, with units ranging from 1,000 to 3,500 square feet.

The backstory: The chain prides itself on making virtually everything in-house (including hot sauces, which are also available by the bottle). It sources naturally raised and antibiotic- and hormone-free meats and GMO-free tortillas, and composts food waste.

Why it’s worth watching:Dos Toros’ sales grew 39.9% year over year in 2018, according to Technomic data. The brand has an engaging social media presence. Its meme-filled Pinto the Burrito Instagram account has more than 100,000 followers. In recent years, Dos Toros has been building out its catering program, growing from $120,000 in catering sales a year (delivered by one custom tricycle) in 2012 to $5 million in annual catering sales today—10% of the concept’s total sales, according to company figures. It has engineered the catering program to be incredibly simple: Type in how many people are being fed and when the food is needed, and Dos Toros delivers a 20-ingredient burrito bar that mimics the in-restaurant experience. The operation is garnering lots of repeat business from this model. Currently, 70% of the chain’s catering orders come from previous customers.

Here are five growth-minded and catering-focused questions with Dana Vandagriff, Dos Toros’ catering director, and Marcus Byrd, the concept’s marketing director:

  1. How did the catering program start?

Byrd: Catering happened because we had a restaurant and people would call us and say, “Can I get a lot of food?” We were like, “Oh, yeah, we can make that work.” We had a tricycle that could hold food for 15 people. The owner would ride the tricycle. Now, we do events for 3,000 people. The maximum we could fit on the tricycle is the minimum we take now.

Vandagriff: When they hired me (in 2016), the whole point of hiring me was to build out the program. At that point, we were still pretty reactive. We wanted to get to a place where we were proactive. We increased business 50% that first year. Logistics is my jam.

dos toros food

Photograph courtesy of Dos Toros

  1. So, what were some of the early steps you took to streamline the catering program?

Vandagriff: You want to take out as many X factors as possible. When I started, there were a lot of X factors. There was a lot that could go wrong. We were declining clients daily. … We gave every employee access to an Uber account (to make deliveries).

Byrd: We’re a challenger brand and that’s exciting for us. But you have to decide what’s worth your investment. In 2012, we thought we needed a catering truck. We’re in New York City, and that’s actually a really bad investment. Uber allows us to not have a physical vehicle.

  1. You organized Dos Toros catering out of a central hub. Describe the reasoning behind that?

Vandagriff: A lot of catering companies, they take the orders out of each store. We use what I like to call the FedEx model: All the packages go to the Memphis hub and then they go out. Everything goes into our headquarters and then everything goes out. We can see: Is this store overloaded?

Byrd: The catering team is plotting out the next day. Who should take the order, the timing. It’s really hard to be excellent in the store, and then you want to add in a $5 million business on top of that. Once the catering order gets to us, we assign it to a catering team member.

Vandagriff: We have catering captains. We took senior team members and elevated them to catering captains. We have catering runners to take the orders. … I like the Danny Meyer model. You hire for their personality and you train them to do the rest. We train them in the kitchen, on the food process, so they can speak to it when they go to the client. We train them on ordering Uber, navigating streets, navigating elevators. When you work in an office, it’s your home away from home. You want to be respectful and watch for spills.

  1. Explain what a Dos Toros catering setup looks like.

Vandagriff: There’s a tent with allergen information and info about the brand and the company. There’s a sauce tent that explains what the sauces and dressings are.

Byrd: When we bring catering, we bring caution tape by the habanero sauce. We bring avocado stress balls. We bring scissors. We’re a big fan of branding. Catering is how I market the food outside of the stores. It’s so professional and so set up. Catering helps us extend the brand outside the four walls. I couldn’t do my job without it. … The high-touch stuff is so important.

  1. How important is catering to the future growth of Dos Toros?

Byrd: Right now, it’s the (sales) equivalent of two stores. Without paying for rent and without paying for new cooking equipment. … It used to be an afterthought.

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