Richard and Brenda Lucio Share Their Secret Sauce to Opening Successful Restaurants

It’s no secret that the restaurant industry is one of the hardest industries to make it in. Yet, thousands of aspiring restauranteurs open new restaurants in cities around the world every year. With the odds being stacked against them from the start, it’s no surprise the majority of new restaurants end up closing their doors within a year of opening.

Running a successful restaurant doesn’t happen by chance, and managing to run 7 successful restaurants certainly doesn’t! In fact, Richard and Brenda Lucio could definitely teach us a thing or two about building popular concepts in the restaurant industry. Many of us take inspiration from our parents, but few of us grow that seed of inspiration into a multi-restaurant business.

Richard saw his father’s and older brother’s work ethics and soon joined the ranks as a part-time dishwasher as a teenager. The business was doing so well; they expanded again and again. After several years, Richard and Brenda had put in plenty of hours and were given managerial responsibilities. By just 25 and 26 years old, they had worked themselves into regional management positions with plenty of responsibility. All of the passion and inspiration had come to fruition, and there was no turning back. The Lucios decided to begin opening their own restaurants, starting with Coyote’s Southwestern Grill in Greeley, Colorado. Then came Palomino Mexican Restaurant, Blue Agave Grill, and most recently Vatos Tacos and Tequila, now with 7 restaurants in Denver and throughout Northern Colorado. 

If you’ve ever wanted to know how to open a successful restaurant and then do it again and again, keep reading as the Lucios share their top tips.

Accessibility for Families

“Before we started our first restaurant, we had experienced Southwestern-style cuisine, which was a contemporary version of what we were used to. The dishes we experienced were expensive and unaffordable for the frequent family diner. This was largely due to expensive and sometimes exotic proteins. I felt by changing to mainstream proteins this could be modified to accommodate the budget of working families without compromising quality,” said Richard.

Customer Experience

In the restaurant industry, customer experience is the difference between success and failure. Simply put, if your customers don’t come back after experiencing your restaurant you won’t have a sustainable business. The core of the Lucios’ success has been creating an experience that keeps their customers coming back. They understand that it takes amazing food, top-notch service, and a fun atmosphere to create loyal customers.

Loyalty and Talent

Richard and Brenda Lucio don’t take a standard approach to their hiring process. Their staff has something that can’t be taught or replaced. They work with the philosophy that they are always hiring. They look specifically for people who fit with the culture that they have created over the years. 

Putting the person first, they hire based on enthusiasm, personality, how willing they are to learn, and passion. After all, passion is what got them where they are!

You might wonder then, how do they hold on to those incredible talents once they have found them? The Lucios believe that an incredible training program, coaching, and real support keeps their employees coming back shift after shift. The Lucios value their team and believe that they have a responsibility for the growth of their staff. 

“Knowing that this is perhaps their first job, a stepping stone on their career path, or a way to get to the next level in our company, we feel a responsibility to cultivate their growth for any future opportunities they aspire to. Employees are our single most important asset!” said Brenda.

Smart Locations

Richard and Brenda know what it takes to get the best location possible. They put some of their success down to timing. Or rather, not worrying about it. They put finding the perfect location ahead of the timing. The food industry is competitive, and the Lucios believe that waiting for the right place is worth it. 

“With all the great competition in our industry, having good food and service isn’t enough. Finding a location that has a need for what you have to offer is first and foremost. For example, having a Hamburger stand on the same block as 6 other Hamburger stands splits the market share. Visibility and accessibility are always important.  Always practice patience for the right spot. A perfect location supersedes the time table to open your restaurant,” said Richard.

When you have the right concept, you need to have patience, and the right place will present itself. The last thing you want to do is split your market share by being surrounded by similar food outlets. 

Passion for Food

The old adage that the secret ingredient to good food is love rings true for the Lucios. They have 7 restaurants with 4 different concepts, you have to eat good food. Then, you have to really work hard to produce a menu that shines. The chefs for each restaurant, Richard and Brenda, are all avid food lovers too. That love for food leads to experimentation and then innovation with fresh and delicious new menu concepts coming out on the regular.

Final Advice for Aspiring Restauranteurs

When a couple has a string of 7 restaurants and comes from a background working in the food industry, it’s not surprising that they know a thing or two about how to make it work. They say that even with all of the knowledge and passion in the world, you won’t have a great restaurant without a good team. 

“You can have all the knowledge, passion, and even all the resources in the world, but the fact is it takes a great team to pull it together. We are never intimidated to hire someone smarter than we are. Brenda and I are fortunate to have surrounded ourselves with hard-working, passionate people. People we now like to call our extended Lucio family,” said Brenda.

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