Comstock's magazine 0519 - May 2019 - Page 27

Then there’s Waitr, the food-delivery company for which he is chief market- ing officer. With an explosion of recent growth, Waitr operates in 250 cities in 10 states. In November 2018, Mayugba and his business partner rang the open- ing bell at the NASDAQ to celebrate the launch of the Louisiana-based Waitr as a publicly traded company. In 1993, Mayugba was making mini- mum wage as a courier when Matt Ken- nedy and John Baccigaluppi started an edgy little snowboarding magazine in Sacramento called Heckler and asked him to be a partner. Mayugba had only gone snowboarding once in his life. But he had made a name for himself as a courier for Baccigaluppi’s company, hustling up new business leads from re- ceptionists he met during his rounds. He scored plenty of business cards, but Ma- yugba now laughs at the memory — he was simply trying to meet girls. “[We] figured it out on the fly,” says Baccigaluppi, who now lives in San Ra- fael and publishes a magazine on mu- sic recording called Tape Op. “We were making a small income on it, but it was an insane amount of work. Sonny was a super-positive person. It would be hard to think of Sonny ever being negative. He always had a can-do attitude.” By 1996, Mayugba was a 26-year- old editor, publisher and global trav- eler whose magazine was thriving, so much so that a major publisher came calling with an offer the three founders couldn’t refuse — $1.5 million cash and the founders could maintain editorial control. But after nine years at Heckler, Mayugba was feeling burned out, so he sold his stake and sought his next entre- preneurial challenge. Mayugba came up with three restau- rant concepts and approached Kurt Spa- taro, executive chef and partner with the Paragary Restaurant Group, which is one of the most prominent locally owned com- panies in the Sacramento food and bever- age category. Mayugba credits his gift of gab and willingness to reach out to those who could teach him something about business with opening new opportunities. Soon Mayugba was working grueling split shifts as the pantry chef at Esquire Grille. It was 2002, and nobody at the restaurant knew who he was. “You’re the lowest guy, the hardest-working guy in the kitchen. You know what? I loved it,” he says. “It’s what I needed. At Heckler, I became this little king. I was publisher and editor-in-chief at one of the hottest snowboarding magazines in the world, flying all over the planet, hanging with AC/DC and Tony Hawk, all these big names, boxes of free stuff showing up every day. I had become that sensitive, ego-driven idiot. I was too cool and I hated that about myself. I was doing it for the wrong reasons.” Mayugba quickly realized he didn’t want to be a chef. So he became PRG’s first marketing director. In 2006, he had another idea — online social media for the restaurant industry. He called it Bite Club. This was when Facebook was just a fledgling enterprise. He launched the startup with some investors but just missed out on the coming boom in that realm. “Social was where it was at, and I saw that,” he says. “But I failed in two areas. As CEO, I thought my ideas were the only way. I invested all of my brain cells in marketing and very few in product. It’s supposed to be the opposite. The failure Sonny Mayugba (right) and his business partner, Tyson Queen, rang the opening bell at the NASDAQ in November to celebrate Waitr going public. Who’s innovating the restaurant industry in the Capital Region? TWEET US @COMSTOCKSMAG May 2019 | 27