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Danny Meyer Is Investing In Local Mexican Chain Tacombi

Published By: Crain’s New York Business
Sunday 12th December 2021

Fresh off backing the Panera Brands initial public offering, Danny Meyer is investing in the fast casual Mexican restaurant chain Tacombi.

On Dec. 9, the New York-based taqueria, which also owns the consumeToolsr packaged good brand Vista Hermosa, announced a $27.5 million first round of institutional funding. Enlightened Hospitality Investments, which Meyer co-founded, is the lead investor. Other investors include two Mexico-based companies—Rodina, a hospitality investment firm, and private equity fund Capital Mazapil—and Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of organic yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm.

“With Enlightened Hospitality, there are three big boxes to check,” says Meyer. “Is it an idea we wish we had come up with ourselves? No. 2, would we have hired the leader if we’d been fortunate enough to meet them? And last, is it a culture we would be proud of? Tacombi, along with founder Dario Wolos, is “a potent combination of all three,” he says.

Wolos started Tacombi as a taco stand on a Yucatan beach in 2006. He transplanted his brand to the U.S. and now has 13 locations in the New York City, Miami, and Washington, D.C., areas, serving al pastor tacos and margaritas by the glass or pitcher. At least five more locations are slated to open in the existing cities and in Connecticut in 2022. A dozen more are planned for 2023, including spots in Boston, Chicago, New Jersey, and Long Island.

The current Tacombi taquerias are projected to bring in more than $50 million in revenue next year. Wolos also projects that the Vista Hermosa brand, which includes flour and corn tortillas and totopos chips, will have more than $10 million in retail sales in the U.S. in 2022 with a line of frozen burritos coming to a handful of regions.

Wolos will use the capital to expand the consumer packaged goods line, improve technology for customer orders, and broaden the network of brick-and-mortar restaurants. He projects there will be 75 Tacombi storefronts in the next five years. “There are 50,000 Mexican outlets across the country with pretty good distribution,” he says. “To be thoughtful in building a business, I’m taking a page from the Shake Shack playbook, first building hubs in East Coast that we think can be replicable.”

Meyer agrees there’s opportunity for Tacombi to expand nationwide in the coming years in an unfilled niche that includes an added layer of hospitality, as well as cocktails.

“Look at the national scope of other Mexican-inflected places, obviously the biggest, broadest, earliest is Taco Bell,” he says. “Chipotle has had enormous success.” Both Yum! Brands Inc., which owns Taco Bell, and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. have seen gains this past year. Meyer’s Shake Shack Inc., meanwhile, had tumbled 34% as of market close on Wednesday from its all-time high this reached in February.

Tacombi, which is a hybrid full-service bar and fast-casual restaurant that holds on to a Mexican beach shack vibe, operates in a separate space. “It allows you the ease of not spending too much money or time, while fully delivering on flavor and offering a little more hospitality. It’s transporting,” says Meyer.