Gustavo Guzman-Lezama ’15 spent years working in his family’s Mexican restaurant before he went to college. Last fall, his father, handed over the Mission Viejo business to his son, and Guzman-Lezama has taken full ownership while studying at Mihaylo.
Being both the boss and a full-time Mihaylo entrepreneurship student is a lot of work, but Guzman-Lezama has embraced the challenge and is applying what he’s learning in the classroom to the family enterprise. To start, the restaurant was originally named Taco Factory, and he has renamed it Taqueros along with steadily improving the eatery and its venue.
“I changed the name of the restaurant, because various locations throughout southern California have the name Taco Factory, and we don’t want to associate our restaurant with those other restaurants,” says Guzman-Lezama.
He made sure the name Taqueros was not already taken by another establishment, and he showcased his marketing skills and creativity by coming up with a simple, yet memorable, logo: three red chili peppers forming the letter “T”.
“We also changed the menu and the layout of the restaurant to enhance the overall quality.”
His father purchased Taco Factory in 2005, and Guzman-Lezama had been working for his father as a cashier, but as he got busier with school, his education had become a priority.
“I was going to school, and I was finding more business opportunities, so I ended up walking away from the restaurant for about three years,” says Guzman-Lezama.
“However, about a year ago, Chipotle opened up a block away from Taco Factory, so my dad called me and told me he needed help with the business.”
His family depends on the restaurant’s revenue, but with the increased competition, business had slowed. So, Guzman-Lezama left an internship with Pepsi to work full-time at Taco Factory.
His father decided to turn the restaurant over to Guzman-Lezama and give his son the opportunity for entrepreneurial success.
Guzman-Lezama is the first to admit that taking over and running a business has been a hectic process while going to school. But he is determined that the close to impossible can be done, and the grand opening was April 20.
“The rebranding and other changes were challenging, especially in preparing for the grand opening,” says Guzman-Lezama.
According to Guzman-Lezama, all the hard work was well worth it.
“There has been a big turnaround because of the new layout and procedures at the restaurant, and business has been picking up,” says Guzman-Lezama.
Taqueros now brings the food to the customers’ table when they are dining in. He has also enhanced the restaurant’s menu with better quality ingredients and more authentic Mexican food.
It was also important for the restaurant to provide options for customers on a budget, which includes a value menu with items under $2.
The reception from the customers has been great he says, and Guzman-Lezama has only received one negative comment. Even though it was upsetting, he understands criticism can be a useful tool, and it motivates him to improve his business.
“I’d rather have people tell me the truth, instead of telling me something I want to hear,” he says.
In the future, he is hopeful that he can open up another restaurant. With the success he has had so far, he knows it’s an attainable goal. In the short term, he’s set to continue working on his Mihaylo degree.
“I have worked so hard to get to the university,” he says. “So I definitely want to finish school more than anything.”