How Dos Toros Scales its Culture

Dos Toros culture revolves around three main components: regular anonymous employee feedback, the owners working on the line, and their learning platform, Dos Toros University.

dos toros taco bowls
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By Jason Bacaj | 4 min read

One of the themes we regularly harp on here at Wisetail is good company culture and the challenges of sustaining a healthy culture while scaling a business. To our surprise and delight, one of our clients, Dos Toros, recently appeared on an employment law podcast to discuss precisely that.

Aleta Maxwell, Chief Human Resources Officer, spoke with Matt Steinberg for the Akerman WorkedUp employment law podcast. Steinberg is an Akerman Labor and Employment partner, in addition to being a fan of the New York Knicks, hip hop, and the 52nd Street Dos Toros location where his go-to order is three tacos. But we digress.

Dos Toros is a growing fast-casual restaurant, having expanded from 13 locations in 2017 to a projected 25 by the end of 2019. They’ve expanded from New York City to Chicago and are on track to hit $60 million in revenue this year. One of Dos Toros’ central tenets is an employee-first mentality. The owners, Leo and Oliver Kremer, believe that employees who feel seen, heard, and appreciated every day are the key to great customer service.

“When you’re in hospitality, you’re in the people business. It’s more and more about training, and how we hire, and how we promote people. It almost feels silly to talk about training as a siloed discipline. It needs to be ongoing and embedded in the culture,” Leo told Forbes.

Learn why Dos Toros chose Wisetail

Aleta, as CHRO, is the one tasked with doing the actual embedding of such principles in the culture and day-to-day operations. She told Steinberg that the broad approach taken by Dos Toros is to look at “the root cause.”

“So the symptoms of great employee culture is lower turnover, is better guest satisfaction reports… (Leo and Oliver) are more focused on every single guest experience, every checklist that we do—does it have exactly what’s needed, and no more no less?” Aleta said. “We believe that when we focus on these details, the bottom line will tell the right story.”

Aleta noted three essential components of maintaining that good company culture: regular anonymous employee feedback, Oliver working on the line (rolling burritos, steaming tortillas, interacting with employees and guests alike), and Dos Toros University, their LMS.

Feedback comes from quarterly employee engagement surveys. The surveys go out via text and are anonymous so employees can be as brutal and blunt as needed. If an employee feels compelled to reach out more often, Aleta said her and the owners’ email addresses are posted in every restaurant. And an employee can directly contact the leadership team on Dos Toros University.

Leo and Oliver were in all the Dos Toros locations constantly before the number of locations made that unfeasible. It was part of what made the environment special, and Aleta said that Oliver still likes to work side-by-side with team members on the line at least three times a week. The connection to leadership is important, but it also allows ideas to flow from every level of the organization. For instance, a new way to steam tortillas for tacos grew out of this practice.

Previously, cheese was put on a tortilla, which then went into the steamer. The tortilla flew around and cheese went everywhere. Just a mess when the steamer was opened. But one employee, while working alongside Oliver, showed off a different approach: he steamed the tortilla before adding cheese. The extra steam helped weight the tortilla so it didn’t end up a “cheesy, goopy mess,” she said.

“So that became the new way we do tacos in the steamer,” Aleta said on the podcast. “Those kind of little improvements are what we’re always looking for.”

The way Dos Toros scales its tight-knit culture across two dozen locations and the roughly 800 miles between New York City and Chicago is through Dos Toros University. The LMS allows Aleta and her team to set clear expectations on what it looks like to win in a given job. It allows them to show what growth looks like within the organization—how an employee can become more senior, earn more certifications, or more money. Plus, it offers an outlet to celebrate professional wins in an authentic way.

“Our Toros (employees) upload pictures and videos catching each other doing something great, whether it was dicing tomatoes the right way or cutting steak the appropriate way or celebrating a birthday or a baby shower or a certification,” Aleta told Steinberg. “It’s a way that we can engage with each other.

“Leo and Oliver can communicate directly with Toros whenever they want to, and vice versa. DTU is a way that we can recognize each other, so when I walk into a restaurant I can say, ‘Yeah, last week I saw the post or picture uploaded about your birthday, happy birthday, how was that?’

“We can keep those authentic, real moments between us as humans… that allows us to continue to scale, continue to focus on our culture but also be really, really clear with everybody on exactly how we want our entrees to be built and cooked.”

Wisetail LMS content creator, Jason Bacaj.


Jason is a content creator with Wisetail. Through research and interviews, he works to help L&D pros grow the breadth of their knowledge. He’s a recovering journalist fascinated with learning.