Three successful Latinx restaurants shared their wisdom with us, opening up about their backgrounds, challenges, and the highlights of being a business owner. From giving tips for surviving in a crowded marketplace to explaining how their restaurants came to be, these three food spots share lessons learned and the reward in hard work.
Who they are
Hungry Pants Orlando, Florida Married duo Alex Marin and Joey Conicella own Hungry Pants, a downtown Orlando restaurant that offers a “plant-curious” menu. The pair describes plant-curious as being “interested in experimenting when it comes to food, especially whole and balanced foods like vegetables and alternative protein sources… but you can still enjoy your favorite comfort foods without judgment.”
Garrido’s Bistro Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan Husband and wife team Christopher and Vanessa Garrido strive to have their customers think of them as friends. Any person who walks in the door will taste and experience the same quality Venezeulan flavors that the Garridos serve to their own family. Their main goals are to have a positive reputation and uphold their family name.
Simon’s Hot Dogs Scottsdale, Arizona A family-owned restaurant, Simon’s Hot Dogs serves Colombian-style beef, pork, and vegan hot dogs, among other Colombian treats. Owner Felipe Roldan is extremely passionate about the food he serves and its ties to Colombian culture. “Food is the most fun way to explore a new country, and one of the most beloved Colombian street foods is the hot dog.”
How did you decide on the name of your restaurant?
We wanted a fun, playful name that was also inviting and inclusive. The name came to us by accident as we often use the word “pants” to describe a mood the other might be in (sassy, smarty, fancy, etc.). Pants in different sizes and colors adorn the walls at Hungry Pants, reminding guests that there’s a place for everyone at our restaurant.
On our first Thanksgiving here in Michigan, friends invited us over, and we decided to bring “pan de jamon” and “hallacas” which are our holiday dishes, and everyone loved them! I think they also liked that it was completely different for them. The following week, our friends called and said we HAD to come for Christmas dinner because all the other guests kept telling them to invite The Garridos. That was our sign—that was the name: Garrido’s.
Simon’s Hot Dogs
The restaurant is named after my first born Simon.
What’s your favorite part of owning your own business?
Working alongside my spouse is one of the most rewarding (and challenging) aspects of owning my own business. You get to share the highs and lows of business ownership with someone that you’re connected to on a deeper level. That’s incredibly special.
My favorite part of owning the restaurant is that we become sort of ambassadors for our culture. When I study the experience that I want our customers to have, I always think, “How do I make them feel like they came to my house for a special dinner party? How can we treat them in the best way possible?” And I keep asking these questions, over and over, and it makes us improve things constantly. I get joy when someone tells me they had a great time, and even more when I see them come back.
Simon’s Hot Dogs
My favorite part is making people happy. Our food is simple, but it’s made with love, so when people appreciate the food and tell us it was delicious, it means so much. That gesture alone makes up for all the hard work we put into it.
What is the most challenging part of owning your business?
The financial struggles of a new, small business are always the most burdensome, especially in the current climate with COVID-19 and record unemployment. Like it or not, as a business owner, you can never show up to work in a bad mood. Your customers and staff will feel it. You have to be the most energetic and positive person in the room, even when you don’t want to be.
The biggest challenge is not letting your family down. What you do is just as important as what you don’t do—there is no room for mistakes because every decision counts. We must succeed!
Simon’s Hot Dogs
Hiring and firing would have to be the most difficult. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right people to work for you. I personally struggle when I have to fire someone, but I realize that I am hurting the business and the well-being of the rest of the employees when we have unhappy employees working for us.
How do you get your business to stand out in a crowded marketplace?
At a minimum, you have to put out an excellent product and provide outstanding service. You have to have a genuine connection with your community and customers. You have to make your workplace culture a positive and rewarding place for your employees. If you can do all those things, then you can start to focus on standing out.
Our biggest investment is in the people. The caring attention you give to your customers does more for your business than a full-page ad in a famous magazine. Especially nowadays, since most of our interactions are with computers, the opportunity to interact with another human and connect, it’s become truly remarkable and valuable.
Simon’s Hot Dogs
I think Simon’s stands out with our product. It’s so different from what’s on the market. For us, a hot dog is far from being just a lonely hot dog—we load our hot dogs with a lot of delicious and creative toppings. On top of that, we set ourselves apart with the customer service we provide. We love to serve people. The Colombian people in general are very friendly, and we want people to feel it when they come to visit us. We strive to share this experience with anyone and everyone and welcome people to come and experience the taste of Columbian street food.
What piece of advice would you give a new business owner?
Be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked before. Be prepared to make sacrifices. Be patient. Look for rewards in the little things.
Work day and night as if that business is your baby. At the beginning it will be weak, vulnerable; it will cry sometimes. Things will get tough, but just like a baby, with love and perseverance, you will push forward.
Simon’s Hot Dogs
The restaurant business is very hard work, so make sure you have a passion for it. You must really love it and be willing to put a lot of time into it.
To hear more from other Latinx business owners, check out these restauranteurs as they share their passion for Miami’s rich Latin community.