Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing the co-founders and business partners of Cancun Grille, Max W. Kuebler and Behzad (Ben) Manzoor. This dynamic duo brings to the table more than 40 years of combined experience as they embark on a new business venture they’re both very passionate about. Here’s some of what they had to say.
An Interview with Co-founder Behzad (Ben) Manzoor
By Fran Conaway
FC: Why did you and Max choose to open a Mexican restaurant rather than a Chinese or Italian restaurant, or a Bar-B-Q, hamburger or steak house?
BM: Well, in the next 10 years California’s population is expected to be 35 percent of Hispanic decent and being that Mexican food has such a wide appeal to people of all ethnicities and becoming more popular not only in the U.S. but in other countries, we chose to go with a winning concept, which is specializing in Mexican food, and that’s my specialty.
FC: But some people think that venturing into the restaurant business is risky. With 30 years of experience in the industry how do you respond?
BM: You can’t fly a plane if you are not a pilot. Neither can you operate a successful restaurant without a proven successful track record. I know what it takes to remove the risk and be successful where others may have failed. My numerous awards and commendations speak for themselves.
FC: Well, then, what do you believe the future is for a Cancun Grille concept upscale quick service restaurant?
BM: We are committed to provide the best Mexican food with incomparable quality, quantity, and prices. Bearing those principals in mind, we are bound to succeed, and look forward to a bright future for our Company. And, because of my many years in this industry with upper management, coupled with the aggressiveness of my fellow founder, Max Kuebler, we will work hard to achieve our goal of having 20 to 30 Company-owned restaurants and franchise operations up and running within five years, with a yearly volume of approximately $2 million for each location.
FC: How did you come to this conclusion?
BM: Think of it this way. The demand for dining out is on the rise. With our competitive prices, it’s just as affordable to dine out versus cooking at home without the extra burden of shopping, preparing the meal and cleaning up the mess.
FC: Since you are tri-lingual and speak fluent Spanish, I’m sure this will be a great asset in the future operations of Cancun Grille. However, in your own words, please explain how this will benefit you?
BM: Communication is the most important tool in any field of business. A good portion of our human resource is of Hispanic descent and knowing Spanish makes it much easier to communicate with that group, which in turn will help our success. I’ve also encouraged my partner, Max, to take an advanced Spanish-speaking course to give us better control over our daily operations. We also have many guests whose first language is Spanish, and it makes them feel more at home once they are greeted with a Spanish-speaking host.
FC: What does it take to manage successful operations in the field of hospitality?
BM: It’s very simple. To operate successful restaurants you must have the four G’s. Those are: (1) Great Food, (2) Great Service, (3) Great People, and (4) Great Places. Once you combine these four ingredients together and understand that the guests are kings and queens, you have the recipe for success. People work hard for their money and would like to spend it wisely. Sure, there are many restaurants out there, but the very successful ones take good care of their guests and their employees. After all, our staff members are also our guests in our units. Ultimately, to succeed in the hospitality field, one must have a passion for food and service. We will use the highest quality products and the freshest meat and produce to create an unforgettable experience for each guest in a welcoming ambience.
FC: Your architectural drawing of Cancun Grille depicts quite an original Cancun Grille concept. Why did you choose this versus a plainer design that others use?
BM: As soon as you walk into any structure, you get the feel of where you are. For example, when you walk into a church, you feel the spiritual grasp of the place. We wanted our guests to feel like they are dining along the beautiful beaches of Cancun, Mexico with some emphasis on the mission look. You know, almost all the restaurant structures these days look the same. Therefore, we want to become a standout in this industry.