After 15+ years of dreaming of owning a restaurant, my parents found a gorgeous location formerly used as a bakery and signed the lease.
With less than $15,000 in start-up capital, we had to create a brand, menu, recipes, and organization that could produce great tasting food and good service in less than 3-months.
Lucio C. - Founder, Operator
Irma C. - Founder, Operator
Co-Founder, Lead Designer
The first challenge was to hold back from jumping right into a logo and menu. My priority from the start was to advocate for a customer-centered approach to designing a brand and business.
To succeed in the small town market we were entering we had to search for opportunities the competitors didn’t see or couldn’t provide.
Although our short timeline and limited budget did not allow for deep user research, I conducted a workshop with Lucio & Irma to brainstorm pain points from the point of view of customers and users (staff).
A qualitative research workshop helped us uncover 3 key insights about the industry:
Make it difficult for customers to choose what to order, causes longer training for new employees, and large overhead costs.
Having a long brand name that is hard to spell or pronounce makes it harder for people to tell their friends or find on google.
Almost every order we saw while working in restaurants had some form of taco, shots of Don Julio, or margaritas.
Our next challenge was to design a memorable brand name and visual identity.
After many brainstorming sessions, we finally found a name that we thought fit best: Sol Tacos & Tequila. Easy to pronounce, easy to spell, and quickly describes what we sell.
With the help of Amy Borgstrom, a very talented graphic designer, we explored different directions until we found a logo and branding we loved.
We started by folding a piece of printer paper and wireframing the layout of the menu with just a pen/marker to arrange the different sections.
After agreeing on the layout, sections, and items we were going to feature, we moved to the design of the physical menu. Initially, we hired a graphic designer on Fiverr but after being displeased with the results, I decided to start drafting on Figma. The web prototyping tool worked surprisingly well for menu design.
The design of our menus was a challenge that had the largest effect on the whole of the business. Since opening 15 months ago, the menu has undergone 12+ drafts and 5 versions of the prints. Listening to the feedback from users, iterating the design, and observing how people used the prototypes was crucial to creating a better customer experience.
Like any business, having a well-functioning & well-designed website is critical to the customer journey for a restaurant.
Through speaking to other restaurant owners, we also discovered how big a pain point staff turnover was in the foodservice industry. Sol’s website had to find a cost-effective way to generate employment leads for open positions.
With that invaluable information, I could quickly create sitemaps, wireframes, and prototypes to ideate what our website would look like and function.
Development then began on my preferred web builder, Webflow, and within 1 week we had our website ready for our grand opening.
After 15+ years of dreaming and 12+ intense weeks of preparation, we were approaching our launch day.
I strongly pushed to begin by doing a “beta-test” and opening for carry-out only for our first week. This allowed us to not only get organized in the kitchen and with staff, but also have a smaller sample size of people who could listen to and correct the flaws of our product & service.
On September 15th, 2020, Sol Tacos & Tequila opened to the community of Forsyth, GA for full-service for the first time. The first couple of weeks were incredibly chaotic having to deal with a wide range of issues, but our communication & attention to customers afforded us their patience and business.
My job from the start was to lead our team to a customer-first point of view first and foremost. Making decisions in a business is difficult with all the different directions one gets pulled in, but setting the customer as our “True North” makes it just a little bit easier.
The months leading up to and the months following opening day brought me some of the hardest challenges I’ve experienced in my career so far. But through the difficulties, I’ve become a stronger entrepreneur, designer, and son because of it.
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