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The Secret to Margaritas Mexican Restaurant’s 25 Years in the Business, According to Its Founder, John Pelletier (Exclusive Q&A)

by Franchise Chatter on March 4, 2012

in Franchise Chatter Exclusive, Q & A Interview, Restaurant Franchise

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I’d like to congratulate John Pelletier and the entire team at Margaritas Mexican Restaurant on their 25th anniversary.  This is a key milestone for any company, but especially for one in the restaurant business.  It was really nice connecting with John, as he recalls the highs and lows of the past 25 years and looks forward to the next stage of the company’s growth.

Founded 25 years ago by John Pelletier, Margaritas Mexican Restaurant Group has 23 locations throughout Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and New Jersey. From colorful authentic décor to a commitment to community relations through charitable events, student field trips, and visiting artist demonstrations, Margaritas provides an atmosphere rich with the culture and flavors of Mexico. Margaritas was recently crowned the Best Regional Chain by New Hampshire Magazine and was named to the publication’s Hall of Fame for its inclusion in “Best of New Hampshire” for 10 consecutive years.

John Pelletier, Founder of Margaritas Mexican Restaurant

John Pelletier, Founder of Margaritas Mexican Restaurant

Franchise Chatter (FC):  Margaritas is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. What are some of the key milestones in your company’s history that have led Margaritas to where it is today?

John Pelletier (JP):  Probably our greatest milestone was in 1993, when we began making regular visits to Mexico for décor and materials to outfit our restaurants back in the States. These trips turned into pilgrimages where we brought back new recipe ideas, learned more about Mexican culture, and really cemented our connection with Mexico as a whole. I believe the quality of our food and uniqueness of our restaurants really portray this authentic influence. As well, we began franchising in 2010 — another key milestone. As our plans to grow evolve, franchising will play a huge role.

FC:  What are some of the most significant changes in your business, your sector, and the franchise industry as a whole during the past twenty five years?

JP:  The biggest changes we’ve faced, and I think every business owner in the restaurant or franchise industries can agree with me, have been with local and state regulations. Compliance laws, health standards, and taxes have developed dramatically since the mid-80s. Keeping up with the ever-changing legal, financial, and accounting regulations, especially with franchising, requires more work than it did 25 years ago. Thankfully, we have a great team here that keeps Margaritas ahead of the game and always in compliance.

Margaritas Mexican Restaurant's Carne AsadaFC:  Looking back, what was the best business decision you’ve made with respect to Margaritas?

JP: I like to think it was connecting directly with Mexico. The cultural influences have been tremendous for our business. And the connectivity is two-pronged. We respect the older Mexican traditions and incorporate modern Mexico as well. Walk into a Margaritas restaurant, and you’ll find the past meeting the present. This allows us to adapt and improve upon old traditions while still maintaining an authentic ambiance and flavor. Most importantly, our years of inundating ourselves in Mexican culture gives us the edge in providing the best, most up-to-date Mexican food, no matter what.

FC:  What are some of the things you wish you had done differently?

JP: I don’t think I would change anything. Looking back over the last 25 years, every decision I made seemed appropriate at that time, given the situation. You can only second-guess yourself so much, but I think things have gone well enough. We’re still in business and growing.

Margaritas Mexican Restaurant's Original MargaritaFC: What are your goals for Margaritas in the next few years and how do you plan to grow the business?

JP:  As I said, franchising is going to play a huge role in our growth from here on out. We only began a couple years back, but I think we have a good plan in motion. Already this year we opened our newest restaurant in Livingston, New Jersey. We have one more planned for 2012 to open in Delaware. The site’s been selected and details are being finalized. In 2013, we really want to start getting into the Boston market. That’s a big priority for us.

FC: Please tell us about your contest to celebrate Margaritas’ 25th anniversary.

JP: Right now, if you log-on to the Margaritas Facebook page, you can enter our contest. Upload a photo with a 25-word caption or 2-minute video describing your best “Margaritas Memory”. The grand prize winner (with the most votes) gets a trip for two to explore the Mayan Ruins in Mexico. There are some very cool prizes for the second and third most votes, too.

FC: Is there anything else you wish to share about Margaritas?

JP: It’s been a great run at 25 years so far, and I’m hoping for another 25 to come. Here is one key to success I’d like to share with any aspiring business owners out there. Make your employees your top priority. Whether in the short or long-term, the people you employ are on the front lines of communication and customer relations. Love the people in your organization and treat them well. Sustained success is not derived from a brilliant marketing strategy or a strong bottom-line. It’s from the people who are with you day in and day out, sharing in the culture and cultivating the relationships that will impact your business forever.

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