Prior to opening their Houston ventures, Martin and Sara Stayer helped open several restaurants in Chicago with the Hogsalt group (3 Arts Club Cafe, Au Cheval, The Doughnut Vault), and are well experienced in the business of launching new concepts. With The Toasted Coconut, they’ll benefit from having the necessary Houston industry connections, as well as community support from fans of the nearby Nobie’s.
Also on their side will be Nobie’s bartender, Sarah Troxell. A key part of the team involved in the development of The Toasted Coconut, it was her passion for tiki drinks that sparked the concept’s inception. Troxell is one of the most recognizable bartenders in the city, having recently won “Best Bartender” in the 2019 Houston Tastemaker Awards, and will be heading up the bar program at The Toasted Coconut.
Due to the success of Nobie’s, which boasts a Zagat rating as well as 4.5-star ratings or higher on Facebook, Yelp, and Google, the opening of The Toasted Coconut is already being keenly watched by several of Houston’s most influential food industry publications. Eater Houston, Houstonia magazine, and Culturemap Houston have each written multiple articles since the announcement of the new project. To generate excitement and buzz around the new business, Nobie’s has been hosting Toasty Tuesdays, where guests and media members have sampled previews of The Toasted Coconut’s menu of food and drinks.
One bite salad with pickled crawfish (left) and Reverse pastor with Indonesian "queso" and roti
Part of the excitement no doubt stems from the current popularity of tiki concepts. Bon Appetit declared tiki drinks to be in vogue in late 2018, and a tiki bar in Seattle won the Tales of the Cocktail conference’s Spirit Award for best new American cocktail bar. Being one of the nation’s foodie front lines, Houston is no exception to the tiki trend’s renaissance, but unlike the city’s existing tiki bars, The Toasted Coconut will set itself apart with its brighter decor and full menu of food created by an acclaimed chef.
While the tiki concept is undeniably trendy, it also has a history dating back to the 1930’s and gaining more popularity after World War II. The execution and attention to detail will turn The Toasted Coconut into a business with staying power that will respect the long time culture, but be unique in its own right similar to their current establishment, Nobie’s. Martin has a proven track record of considering the freshness, quality, and sustainability of all the ingredients he sources from local and independent purveyors. This means that The Toasted Coconut will be known as a place for an outstanding meal or drink, rather than a kitschy watering hole relying on its novelty appeal.
In addition to their commitment to top-shelf quality, the owners are set on keeping the pricing accessible to all. They aim to have their average food cost below $20 per person, with sharable plates and smaller items like meat skewers enabling people to try several different things in an affordable manner. The hope is that the lower food cost will encourage those visiting for drinks to also eat, and those visiting to eat to also try the show-stopping drinks.
Mapo tofu fries (left) and tiki-inspired cocktail (right)
By deciding to change the menu once every quarter rather than every month as they do at Nobie’s, The Toasted Coconut will save on food costs, adding to the saving they’ll realize through their commitment to low food waste. Many of the restaurant’s lunch options will utilize ingredients from the dinner menu, and any items underperforming on the menu will be repurposed to avoid spoilage and wasted produce. Both food and labor costs will be kept at 35% or less.
Branded merchandise such as t-shirts, Hawaiian shirts, and ceramics will be for sale at the bar, and with the event space there is a significant opportunity for private functions to become a substantial revenue stream. Further down the line, The Toasted Coconut also hopes to expand into offering offsite catering and event planning, expanding their reach, footprint, and sales.