RocoMamas co-founder Brian Altriche keenly understands his market – which is indisputably a major factor in the success of the restaurant franchise that he built together with co-founder, Paul Dempsey.
Their American-influenced smashed burger concept restaurant brand has surpassed all expectations, becoming a firm favourite among those looking for a trendy, high quality fast food option.
From one restaurant in 2013, built from his own savings, today they have over 50 restaurants including branches in Mauritius, Namibia and Saudi Arabia.
A gut-feel entrepreneur and self-described dreamer and creative, Altriche has the uncanny ability to suss out the market’s pulse. He has managed to tap into what makes the often described as “fickle millennial and Gen Z markets” tick.
According to Altriche, the RocoMamas concept is largely based on this market’s demand for a more personalised dining experience and growing appetite for hand-made food.
“I wanted to bring mastery back into fast food,” says Altriche, “I felt all the major brands had lost their way and were providing a substandard product to the general population.”
“I feel that great advertising allows mediocre products to flourish and these big brands wallow unknowingly in this comfort. I wanted to provide honesty by building stores with open kitchens for transparency and never photoshopping images of the food, in fact we still do all food photography in store and consume those products directly after the photo has been taken. What the customer sees, the customer gets. I love seeing beauty in imperfection.”
“I still go to the original store in Randburg on a daily basis and run into customers who started supporting us from month one”
Altriche was adamant from the beginning that they prepare their food from scratch using only fresh ingredients.
“This enticed me and I assumed customers would wait a little longer for better quality food. I suppose in simple terms, the idea sprung from my desire to provide freshly prepared fast food for my daughter’s generation,” he adds.
Apart from what’s on the plate, Altriche’s obsessive focus on creating the full brand experience for their customers, translated into the look and feel of his restaurants as well as their online presence (RocoMamas burgers are the most Instagrammed in the country).
Altriche talks to SME South Africa about how he’s been able to set RocoMamas apart from the competition, and how he envisions its future.
Q: What has surprised you the most in the RocoMamas journey?
The genuine love people have for the brand blows me away.
Q: Is online food delivery becoming a bigger portion of the business? How do you see online playing out in the coming years?
RocoMamas is unique because it’s a takeout joint with a restaurant sit-down culture. In the initial business plan, I outlined that we must do 55% eat in and 45% takeout – and we’re achieving this within our established market and nationally we achieve 29% takeout vs. 71% eat in with the takeout percentage growing monthly.
I see online adoption continuing to increase in line with how we have seen aggressive engagement and growth from our online communities via social media.
As our customers are an integral part of our business approach, we are constantly looking at digital ways to enhance their experience. We will be launching an online ordering platform linked with our loyalty app shortly. We also use third party delivery systems whereby customers order online.
Q: In a hugely competitive sector, how are you keeping RocoMamas relevant?
I think my many failures in the past really assisted me in fine-tuning the vision I had. I actively visualise every aspect of the business and my life. Obviously though, there are many people who form part of the recipe and I can’t take credit for it all. I think that we have an amazing team of associates and stakeholders who contribute on a continuous basis whilst navigating the blueprint I’ve communicated.
I am a dreamer and a creative. There’s no way I could achieve this alone and I have to be humble in accepting [that] it’s been a collective effort. I think luck also plays a part and the 10 000 Hour Rule, made famous by Malcolm Gladwell, is the looking glass that allowed me to tweak the vision.
Q: People often rave about the RocoMama’s brand, what’s your take on what has helped propel RocoMamas so rapidly?
Word of mouth, especially via social media.
Q: What is your goal for RocoMamas?
To remain relevant on a global scale whilst still appealing to the early adopters of the brand. I still go to the original store in Randburg on a daily basis and run into customers who started supporting us from month one. That makes me happy. I listen to them because they’re as much a part of this journey as the rest of the team and myself are.
Q: You’ve had incredible highs and lows along your journey, what have been the three biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Landlord negotiations whilst being an unknown brand during the early days, finding suitable franchisees that have the same passion and vision as I do and sourcing from honourable suppliers.
Q: After such an incredible entrepreneurial journey, what are your biggest lessons so far?
Failure and risk are part of the equation of success. I have failed often.
Q: What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Remain humble and hungry, always. And without risk, failure and honest hard work success will elude you!
Q: How do you stay motivated?
By chatting to customers who were early adopters during month one and still visit today, and being inspired by youngsters doing brilliant and creative work with their unencumbered minds.