Dos Toros is dipping a toe into e-commerce by selling hot sauces

Dos Toros is entering the world of e-commerce as a first step toward selling products wholesale.

Starting on Nov. 15, the taco chain will sell its three hot sauces, already sold at its 19 restaurants in New York and Chicago, directly on its website. Individual bottles of hot sauce will be sold for $8, or in three-piece box sets called “hot boxes” for $24 each.

While the push is more of a brand awareness play at the moment, it’s the start of what Leo Kremer, co-founder of Dos Toros, said is the company’s experimentation with retail. Kremer said the company was inspired by Greek restaurant chain Cava in Washington, D.C., which now sells its own line of hummus and other spreads in grocery chain Whole Foods.

“We were like ‘wow, that is so cool that they can have that brand extension and whole other side business.'” said Kremer. “We’re so tied to our restaurants, but it limits your reach.”

The company is using Shopify to sell products, and Kremer said this lets them experiment with selling online before wading into a wholesale environment. “We can learn about how much demand there is and where it’s coming from geographically, then focus on retail partners in those markets where our hot sauce is most popular,” he said.

There is also a low barrier to entry. “It doesn’t require too much time and effort to meet with individual buyers and negotiate the many different aspects of distribution, pricing and placement,” said Kremer.

The company, supported by an internal five-person marketing team, bottles each sauce itself. He said the cost of bottling up the chain’s hot sauces is half of the sales price, which is why this is only a small first step.

Selling online is a way for the company to differentiate itself as it competes against much larger fast-casual chains like Chipotle, Taco Bell and Del Taco. Kremer said the chain’s homemade hot sauces that grow in their level of intensity — Smokey, Verde and Habanero — have already helped differentiate the restaurants.

It’s also a way to receive measurable sales insights from the company’s regular marketing efforts. “Previous to having an e-commerce product, we could send an email to our guests, but it’s just information. It’s not actionable,” said Kremer. “Now we can say, ‘click here to buy our hot sauce’ and see click-throughs to a sale and an action.”

Selling on Amazon might also be on the horizon, with nothing off limits, Kremer said. “We’re agnostic about where we sell,” he said. “We want to be wherever our customer is.”

Kremer said the company is promoting its new e-commerce push with emails, Facebook and Instagram ads, upcoming influencer and brand collaborations and especially with signs at its own restaurants, riffing off of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” series with posters and ads that read “Spicier Things.” “It’s part of the brick-and-mortar advantage,” he said. “It’s like a billboard.”

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