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Russ: This is The BusinessMakers Show, heard on the radio and seen online at TheBusinessMakers.com. It's guest time on the show and our topic today is the restaurant business. And those of you who are regular viewers of the show know that, uh, the only restaurateurs that get on the show are very special ones and we have one today; Judy Camarena the CEO of Taquerias Arandas.
Russ: Judy, welcome to The BusinessMakers Show.
Judy: Thank you for having me.
Russ: Tell us about Taquerias Arandas.
Judy: Well today Taquerias Arandas is a franchising company that's composed of twenty-seven taquerias, uh, five bakeries, two seafood, uh, full service restaurants and one mobile unit.
Russ: Okay, do they all go under the name Taqueria Arandas?
Judy: They go under Arandas Franchises which is what I'm the President of.
Russ: Okay, really cool. So what qualifies, uh, a restaurant as being a taquerias restaurant?
Judy: Taquerias is it would be the authentic Mexican food portion of it.
Russ: Tell us a little bit about what makes Mexican food authentic versus not authentic.
Judy: It's a lot of the details. It's typically foods that are probably more common in Latin America. It's the details stuff, details like the cheese for example; in Latin America we use typically white cheese, not so much the yellow cheese that's used more commonly here in the states. So that would be an example of it.
Russ: Okay. So it's really interesting the focus on authenticity of Mexican food, what kind of clientele do you actually attract with that menu?
Judy: We started off attracting only Mexican workers and since then it's evolved over the years, just in the last ten years that I've been here it's really evolved into a fifty split between the general market and anybody from Latin America.
Russ: Okay. I've sort of sensed that, you know, the Tex-Mex crowd got huge and then there seemed to be more and more people that are interested in authentic Mexican food; so that would – if that's actually happening, that would work in your favor, right?
Judy: Which is a really interesting perspective because I see it the other way. I always saw more of the authenticity growing more and more just with the new generations, I think people are wanting something a little bit more authentic, closer to home.
Russ: Okay. So how long have you been CEO of the company?
Judy: Seven years now.
Russ: Okay, what was the company like when you first showed up?
Judy: Oh goodness, it was definitely just a name out there, um, really no structure. There was – there were no, uh, recipe books, no corporate manuals, um, no systems in place; there was just no way of holding anybody accountable for anything. Basically people were getting into the restaurant business that were just hard workers but I'm not sure if they were really strong in the administrative portion of it all.
Russ: Okay. And I know the answer to this question but our audience doesn't, so who preceded you as CEO of the company?
Judy: My father.
Russ: Okay. So this is a family built business, right?
Judy: It was. It definitely started off as a family owned restaurant and since then has evolved now into a franchised company.
Russ: Did you grow up working in the family-owned business?
Judy: I did and we were pretty much in every single aspect of the business. In the restaurant we were waiting tables, anything that needed to be done we were gonna do. Which is funny because positions never really mattered, it was just that's what needed to be done and that's the hat you were gonna wear that day and you just had to know how to do it. So I've worked at the restaurants - the seafood restaurants – developing that concept and the bakeries. I remember when it was just a thought.
Russ: Okay. So what was the thing that triggered the transition from - from your dad to you?
Russ: It was always a little bit more – I was just very curious about the business, I always – I was a little bit more ambitious than my other sisters so I – that's just – that's where the interest started. Okay, so did you just come in and take over one day or did your dad say hey, no, you're ready?
Judy: I had the initiation and I came in and I begged him to let me work in the office. I just really wanted to learn more about the way things really worked back of the house. And I – before I knew it I was putting more and more hours and – and this became my second home. I mean I wasn't I would come in the earliest, I would leave the latest and I kept getting more and more responsibility without meaning to.
Russ: Okay, well I kind of detect a little passion there for the operation.
Russ: Okay. So when you took over was the company already then a completely franchised company or did you and the family still own and operate, one of the restaurants?
Judy: No, the restaurants were a hundred percent franchised when I came in, which was part of the challenge that I really liked.
Russ: Okay, being a franchisor though, man it's not easy to pick franchisees and people that apply to be franchisees, I mean, it's not guaranteed to be successful.
Judy: That's right.
Russ: Okay, so how have you pulled this off to the point where it is today?
Judy: First thing I think you – I needed to do was probably learn what Taquerias Arandas really was; establish that, really create – create something more than just the name itself. And then from there we started building, well, we started creating standards and requirements on the necessities of the business. The company had been around twenty years prior to me being here, so I picked up on things that I would notice consistently. Like, you need to have A, B, and C always aligned in order to be successful and that would become a requirement that you needed to fill.
Russ: Okay, I would suspect that you run into a little bit of resistance when you start implementing rules and procedures and policies with a group that wasn't expecting them.
Judy: Absolutely. I think culturally they're just not very familiar with procedures and things being a little bit more aligned and in uniform and, um, they're not really used to the administration – uh, administrative portion of it. But that's where the patience comes in and I just, you know, it just took – it just took time; I started working on the delivery, trying different approaches and I failed miserably for a long time. I think it just started clicking about well maybe four years ago, it just started to get a lot easier. Same amount of work but it seems like I'm going a lot faster.
Russ: Okay. And what do you do to try to attract new franchisees?
Judy: We're going after various specific niche right now. There's a lot of people that are already in the restaurant industry that know how to work it but they don't really have the administrative portion of it and that – those are the people that we really want to attract as potential franchisees. With the systems in place that we have now, it makes them a lot it just makes the business a lot easier for them to run. They understand what – the workings of it, but they don't understand the administrative portion; so if we can provide them with that, then they become very successful.
Russ: Okay. Now, you know, opening some of these restaurants could there could be a significant upfront cost; do you only try to attract franchisees that can afford that or do you actually offer some direction in financing as well?
Judy: We do both, we do both depending on the candidate and how strong that we feel that he would be for the franchise and where we're going.
Russ: Okay. Now I know that most of your restaurants today are in Houston, the Houston area, but you do have some outside of Houston too, right?
Judy: We do
Russ: Okay. And are expansion plans, you know, limited to this area or would you love to expand beyond Houston?
Judy: We're definitely always looking to expand. We've gotten a couple of calls from people interested in opening in really neat places like India and we're looking into Germany and, uh, McAllen is another one that's kind of on the map.
Russ: Really cool, really cool. So, you know, if you were to map out what this would look like, this organization, say five years from today, describe your best case scenario.
Judy: Oh, we'll definitely be national. Yes, yep.
Russ: Would you actually maybe even come up with another type and vintage of restaurant as well, other than taquerias? Or do you – are you just going to stick with that?
Judy: No, we're definitely, um, we're definitely coming up with another concept as we speak. We're – our plans this year are to open up a mobile unit with a different concept, definitely geared more towards the young professionals, the audience that I'm missing.
Russ: Okay. And by mobile you mean like a truck, a taco truck, right? All right, really cool. Well Judy, I really appreciate you sharing your story with us.
Judy: Well thank you for having me.
Russ: You bet. That's Judy Camarena, the CEO of Taqurias Arandas. And this is The BusinessMakers Show, heard on the radio and seen online at TheBusinessMakers.com.