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A Quick Pivot Saved This Berkeley Restaurant, Now It’s Boomin’

Updated: Feb 15, 2024 10:59
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Tarocco, nestled in Berkeley, is a charming lunch spot offering a Barcelona-inspired menu. Last November, they almost closed their doors and it was a quick pivot that saved the business and quadrupled sales. Tarocco’s allure extends beyond culinary delights to include a sun-drenched seating area, exuding rustic-romantic dishes inspired by Barcelona that are exceedingly delicious while also being affordable.

Here, customers indulge in comforting dishes that strike the perfect balance between healthfulness and delectability. And while the restaurant has walked away from the traditional sit-down restaurant experience, its new model creates a connection to the customer that is more personal than a fast-casual approach.

Photos from @mytarocco

Chef Sequoia Del Hoyo of Tarocco wrote, “We were skating too close to the edge. Catering and events have carried us through, but the cafe itself was losing money every day. In November, I decided to close the doors for a couple weeks during winter break and try to decide what my next move was.”

Chef continued, “At home one night my partner (who happens to be a chef) was discussing the changes in the industry and how a restaurant post-pandemic can be successful. We agreed on one thing – the industry has changed and so have the needs of our patrons. People want food quickly, and they need it to be affordable and convenient,” wrote the Chef.

Photos from @mytarocco

For Sequoia Del Hoyo and her partner Jason Botterill, closing Tarocco wasn’t an option and it also didn’t feel right to pivot towards a more traditional fast-casual model because they’d lose the connection with their customers.

After some thought, Del Hoyo and Botterill found a new model that has seen lower overhead and skyrocketing sales. Their new unique dining experience allows you to walk up to the counter and interact directly with Del Hoyo – you can pick and choose from several ready-made dishes and choose to eat at the restaurant or take your food to-go. As a lunch-only spot, this model works well for patrons wanting to get a quick healthy bite to eat on their lunch break.

Photos from @mytarocco

Del Hoyo, “Jason and I entered this industry because it was romantic and sexy – we didn’t want to merely serve people food in to-go boxes.”  Said Del Hoyo, “We sought a model that allowed us to interact with our patrons while providing quick service and keeping labor costs down. Additionally, we both share a deep connection to Barcelona – where my parents met and where much of my family still resides. Jason co-owned a restaurant in Barcelona for three years.”

Chef continued, “We extensively pondered the Spanish model of casual dining, which emphasizes the aesthetic experience – patrons can select from the tapas bar, and the server plates them. It’s quick, satisfying, and sexy. Thus, we asked ourselves: why not bring that concept here? However, being in California and having access to some of the world’s best produce, we will offer a variety of fresh, beautiful salads for patrons to choose from,” explains Del Hoyo.

“It’s quick, satisfying, and sexy.”

Photos from @mytarocco

In today’s challenging landscape, numerous restaurants are compelled to reassess their approach to serving customers, all while grappling with expenses that just seem to keep rising and rising beyond sustainability. This month, I expected to write numerous articles about closures and this story gives us a little seedling of hope. Maybe the answer isn’t closing a restaurant or changing over to a traditional fast-casual experience just to stay afloat. Maybe the answer is looking back at why you opened the restaurant in the first place – to serve great food to your community, and to connect through food.

“With this model, I can manage the front end on my own, Jason can handle the kitchen, and we were able to bring back an employee who has been with me since day one to support both sides,”  said Del Hoyo, “I mean, it’s the way we want to eat, and it’s very much how we eat at home. Labor costs dropped by 75%, and our sales literally doubled, sometimes quadrupled.”

“So, I don’t know, are we onto something? Maybe. But one thing I do know is that this industry will continue to change, and with the expectations people have now, if you aren’t willing to make adjustments and be creative, it’s really hard to make it,” says Del Hoyo.

About Chef Sequoia Del Hoyo and Jason Botterill

Tarocco was created in 2020 as an answer to the need during the pandemic when there was a strong demand for healthy meal delivery services. Eventually, in Spring 2022, Tarocco established its brick-and-mortar location in West Berkeley.

Del Hoyo is a restaurateur, recipe developer, small business owner, and multi-faceted creative with an emphasis on functional, sustainable design. Before Tarocco, she co-owned Sequoia Diner in Oakland’s Laurel District. Meanwhile, Botterill, originally from Vancouver, has made the Bay Area his home for the past decade. His culinary journey includes work as a private chef as well as stints at esteemed establishments such as Chez Panisse and the River Cafe in London, along with culinary experience internationally in Italy and Spain.

Consider visiting Tarocco and indulging in a delicious meal! Their location boasts stunning surroundings, and they’ve excelled in hosting special events and providing catering services. Additionally, you can join their meal program, Club TAROCCO, tailored for a wholesome experience. This program offers hand-delivered packages featuring five gluten-free + optional dairy dishes, inspired by the Mediterranean eating style, aimed at making you feel good.

Where to find Tacorro :
IG: @mytarocco
Address: 2570 Ninth St, Berkeley, CA 94710
Open 11-2:30 Monday-Friday

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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy has lived in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.