On 4 July the ANZCCJ hosted the Global CEO and founder of Guzman y Gomez (GYG) Steven Marks at one of his stores in Shibuya. Steven shared about his passion for people and good Mexican food which led him to commercial success in Australia. He also shared about his vision for the Japanese market, representing the next frontier for him and the business. The audience, consisting of ANZCCJ members and guests, including those from the ACCJ and CCCJ, listened attentively to Steven's journey and enjoyed the opportunity to taste GYG’s premium 'fast food' firsthand.
Steven spoke of how his passion for numbers and attention to detail led him from the streets of New York to Wall Street, then London, and now Sydney where he has lived for over 17 years. Starting his first restaurant in Newtown Sydney, there are now 126 stores in Australia, making GYG the fastest growing food company in Australia; it will add another 24 restaurants in Australia this year. Its Grilled Chicken Burrito is currently Australia’s top takeaway dish on Deliveroo and number 7 worldwide. GYG are also amongst UberEats top options on their delivery platform. Internationally GYG has 8 restaurants in Singapore, 4 restaurants in Tokyo and is about to launch into the US.
Steven attributes his success to his commitment to quality of produce used, the culture to build and invest in his people, and his philosophy to never compromise on these things. He believes that once people people try GYG, they will come to love it and appreciate its quality. Part of the journey for him was redefining how Mexican food was viewed in Australia. At the core of all their products, Mexican authenticity and nutritional value are key. True to his prediction, after trying the food at the event, guests commented that they would surely be returning to the restaurant again with their families and friends in tow.
Many members were also interested in the practical and cultural difficulties of introducing the franchise into Japan. Steven noted that ANZCCJ member Transit Group was, and remains, integral to his expansion into Japan. With their help GYG has navigated cultural differences and the negative perception of Mexican food in Japan to create a ‘super visual’ restaurant experience. The menu has also been augmented to include a Japanese Chicken Teriyaki burrito to appeal to Japanese tastes. Steven hopes to build brand recognition in Asia by creating a flagship store in Tokyo soon.
Members asked whether the ingredients were locally sourced or supplied from Japan or Mexico. Steven replied that although some ingredients are sourced from Japan, most ingredients including avocados are Australian with authentic spices and chilies sent in from Mexico.