Photo by Pablo Robles

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski | February 5, 2021

Nava Singam has been in the restaurant business for most of his life. But when he purchased the Macayo’s Mexican Food brand two years ago, he prolonged the chain’s love affair with the Valley.

“It’s a legacy brand to me,” Singam says. “You don’t see very many restaurants that have been around for 50, 75 years. This brand will really carry a lot of history down the line. Even 40 or 50 years down the line, somebody is going to look back it and try to trace its roots back to Phoenix when it opened.”

The seven-restaurant chain is celebrating its 75th anniversary on September 26. However, it’s celebrating throughout 2021 by introducing new specials the 26th of each month.

“We’re honored and grateful to have been a part of families’ traditions and celebrations every day and on special occasions for 75 years,” says Singam, who owns Kind Hospitality.

“We aim to continue to be the place where people come to enjoy a traditional Mexican meal and a great experience and to provide the delicious food that people bring into their own homes for many more years to come.”

Macayo’s kicked off the milestone year with specials such as 75-cent crispy tacos starting January 26, and it continues with 75-cent cheese enchiladas beginning February 26, and 75-cent cheese crisps from March 26.

Those are three of the many appetizers, entrees and desserts Singam kept on the menu when he acquired the brand. The changes were more organic, he says.

“We’re not trying to change the brand,” Singam says. “The brand was around for 73 years when we picked it up. There was no need to change it.

“What we need to do is make sure that the newer generation understands what Macayo’s is all about. That’s what we’re trying to gravitate to. The menu is the same. The recipes are the same. In fact, when we bought the brand, we took everybody on our team.”

The portions were just as important to Singam. He wanted to serve enough food for guests to have leftovers.

“That’s No. 1,” he says with a smile. “When you think of Macayo’s, you think of big meals. We want to make sure they’re getting value. We made sure the plating was correct. We revisited the training manuals. We visited our stores and retrained everybody, so the service levels would be the same.”

Besides its service, Macayo’s is known for its chimichanga, which the restaurant will celebrate on September 26, National Chimichanga Day. The Chimi de Macayo ($13.99) comes with shredded beef, chicken or carnitas, and relleno sauce, crispy flour tortilla, sour cream and rice or refried beans.

Singam is planning to expand the brand this year to meet the demand for food at Macayo’s. He’s already inked a deal for a restaurant at Pima Crossing in Scottsdale. Singam is committed to opening a Macayo’s at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. He’s also considering Queen Creek, Gilbert/Chandler and Buckeye. A pandemic-era expansion is a bold move.

Expansion wasn’t his primary concern, however.

“The biggest concern for us was safety,” Singam says. “Once everybody knew that we were really being cautious about how we delivered the food and how we control the restaurant’s environment, I think folks really gravitated to us.

“I’m thankful that we had the 6,000-square-foot dining rooms because when we cut to 50% occupancy, that’s still quite a number of customers. That’s really been helping us.”

Macayo’s was helping others, too. The staff took food to hospitals, first responders and grocery stores every day.

“Everyone appreciated what we did,” he says. “Every Macayo’s delivered food for up to 20 people. I think the community has blessed us back for coming and visiting us. So, I think pivoting in so many ways was critical. But I think we pivoted toward humanistic values more than anything.”

Singam is looking forward to the September 26 anniversary. He hopes patrons will, too.

“We hope we’re going to be around for the next 75 years,” he says. “We’re just appreciating everything that our customers have done throughout the last 75 years.”

Macayo’s locations

12637 S. 48th Street, Ahwatukee, 480-598-5101

650 N. Scottsdale Road, Tempe, 480-967-2552

6012 W. Bell Road, Glendale, 602-298-8080

1474 N. Litchfield Road, Goodyear, 623-209-7000

1920 S. Dobson Road, Mesa, 480-820-0237

6538 E. Superstition Springs Boulevard, Mesa, 480-807-1846

15565 W. Bell Road, Surprise, 623-214-5950