Retail, Consumer Products and Hospitality
The restaurant industry was not kind during recent years. The hours were as long as ever, the food was more expensive than at any time in memory, and to compound those problems, many customers started to eat at home more often to cut back on discretionary spending during the recession. Just about every industry suffered, of course, but restaurants were near the top of the list.
So how did Brian Wheeler and Tijuana Flats Burrito Co. come out of the mess not just all right but better than ever?
Wheeler founded Tijuana Flats in 1995, shortly after he graduated from college. He had never worked a day in the industry and had barely washed a dish at home. But he convinced his parents to lend him $20,000 to start his creation. During the course of a decade and a half, Wheeler worked and worked, and Tijuana Flats grew and grew now to more than 70 locations, primarily in Florida, though the company has also expanded to Indiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Perhaps most impressive, though, is the fact that Wheeler has managed to help the company increase its annual revenue significantly during each of the last three years. Today, it is almost double what it was near the end of 2007.
Wheeler’s formula for Tijuana Flats’ success is simple. He wants fresh Tex-Mex food, nothing ever frozen or blasted in a microwave. He wants restaurants unique to their location and that never feel like a chain. And he wants happy employees, so he treats them fairly. He spends most of his time in the restaurants, working with employees, seeing the company at the ground level.
Wheeler has seen the failures. But recently, he has seen all of the successes.
How to reach: Tijuana Flats Burrito Co., (407) 339-2222 or www.tijuanaflats.com