Bring­ing flair and fresh­ness back into fast food

New kid on the fast-food block, Ro­coMa­mas, can boast the dis­tinc­tion of hav­ing ‘the most In­sta­grammed burger in SA’. And that is ex­actly the mar­ket the fast-food joint is aim­ing for.

Finweek English Edition - - ON THE MONEY - By Jes­sica Hub­bard

since the of­fi­cial launch of the fast food brand in 2014, Ro­coMa­mas has se­duced mil­lions of South African taste buds with its smash burg­ers and sassy brand per­son­al­ity. The first Ro­coMa­mas opened in Rand­burg, Gaut­eng, and the bold restau­rant chain al­ready boasts an im­pres­sive foot­print with 48 na­tional stores and an ad­di­tional four stores across Africa and the Mid­dle East. Har­ness­ing the power of so­cial me­dia and dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing to ap­peal to a young and tech-savvy au­di­ence, the brand has tellingly scooped the ti­tle of “the most In­sta­grammed burger in South Africa”. We caught up with founder Brian Al­triche to find out more about the busi­ness and cre­ative strate­gies be­hind the burg­erin­spired buzz.

What did you do prior to start­ing Ro­coMa­mas?

I have al­ways been in busi­ness, pre­dom­i­nantly within the food and bev­er­age in­dus­tries. I have started var­i­ous busi­nesses and also de­vel­oped nu­mer­ous brands from scratch.

Where did the idea come from?

I noted how re­cep­tive mil­len­ni­als and Gen­er­a­tion Z were to mass-pro­duced fast food and how they, al­most by sec­ond na­ture, con­sumed it with­out an ac­tual no­tion of what this food was like when it was first in­vented dur­ing the early 20th cen­tury.

Obe­sity, di­a­betes and other dis­eases are a mas­sive con­cern world­wide, and yet these only in­creased ex­po­nen­tially three decades-plus af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of fast foods. I de­cided to study the dif­fer­ence of food stor­age and pro­duc­tion dur­ing the early stage of fast food, and com­pared it to pro­ce­dures used to­day. I was gob-smacked at the com­plex­ity of food man­u­fac­ture and dis­tri­bu­tion in the mod­ern age, as well as the ad­di­tives and thick­en­ers be­ing used.

How­ever, the sim­plic­ity of ac­tu­ally pre­par­ing it from scratch us­ing proper fresh in­gre­di­ents 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 daugh­ters’ gen­er­a­tion.

I wanted to bring mas­tery back into fast food. I felt all the ma­jor brands had lost their way and were pro­vid­ing a sub-stan­dard 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.

My tar­get mar­ket was, and still is, mil­len­ni­als and Gen­er­a­tion Z.

How quickly did it turn into a na­tion­wide fran­chise?

Slightly over three years.

How did you get fund­ing to get started?

To start Ro­coMa­mas I used my own sav­ings ac­crued from my other busi­nesses’ prof­its.

What has been the one thing that has helped pro­pel Ro­coMa­mas so rapidly?

Word of mouth… es­pe­cially via so­cial me­dia!

What have been the three big­gest dif­fi­cul­ties you’ve had to over­come?

Land­lord ne­go­ti­a­tions whilst be­ing an un­known brand dur­ing the early days; find­ing suit­able fran­chisees that have

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