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 burger-inspired 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 the same passion and vision as I do; and sourcing honourable suppliers.
Biggest lesson learnt?
Failure and risk are part of the equation of success. I have failed often.
How tough is competition in your sector, and what differentiates your offering from others?
This is a tough, saturated market so differentiation is key.
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.
This article originally appeared in the 4 May edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here.