Everything you need to open a retro picnic area

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In 2010, Miguel Morales made the decision of his life: he resigned from his job as a maintenance leader in a medical gases company to start a business. He opened Papa Guapa , a diner-type restaurant that went from operating in 2011, in a loaned premises, with two employees, serving 30 diners a day, three active outlets and one in the process of relocation, 16,000 consumers per month and 100 collaborators.

After resigning, Miguel went on vacation to Germany, where he found a place of baked potatoes that he loved. Back in Mexico City, he perfected his idea of a vintage restaurant based on baked potatoes: he began by conceptualizing the brandig using the image of a handsome and sexy potato; he then set up a ‘test lab’ at home to develop the letter and built a support network.

“My friend Uriel Valdez, owner of La Cupcakería, was the one who made it possible for me to start, since he lent me his premises in the Zona Rosa. So cupcakes were sold during the day and stuffed potatoes at night, from Thursday to Sunday, ”explains Miguel.

In the beginning, Miguel and his Papa Guapa faced several challenges. One of them happened at an electronic music festival, where he sold a single potato of the 500 that he had projected; another, when the poor choice of a partner with a view to opening his first branch in Querétaro, led him to lose time and money.

However, Papa Guapa is today the spearhead of a wave of retro restaurants, whose concept has its origin in American trends in decoration, music and fashion of the 50s and 60s. Most of these places have menus specialized in hamburgers, French fries and milkshakes.

If you are attracted to participate in this sector. Make a business plan and find your differentiator. Remember that while there is room for new players, it is best to offer consumer experiences.

Consumer profile

In general, these diners belong to a socioeconomic level A / B, C and C + and are willing to pay a personal ticket of between 150 and 180 pesos for a package. “Our clients cover a very broad spectrum: from complete families and couples, to young people, adults and children,” explains Jonathan Picard, founding partner of El Merendero , one of the diners with the longest tradition with branches in Condesa, San Ángel, Coyoacán, Tlalpan and Del Valle.

How many diners are there in Mexico? The exact data is not available. What is known is that the restaurant industry, according to the 2014 Economic Census of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), includes 452,000 economic units and employs 1.5 million people. In addition, it participates with 1% of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The global study Trends in Food Outside the Home , prepared by Nielsen, indicates that four out of ten Mexicans eat outside the home, between one and two times a week, 58% of them do so at mealtime. Among the favorite establishments are fast food restaurants and coffee shops.

Added values

The offer is so extensive that it is necessary to differentiate yourself from the competition, whether based on the ingredients or the way of preparation or even the setting and the service. An example is Parker & Lenox , a hybrid place located in Colonia Juárez in Mexico City, where Lenox acts as a diner that serves as a passage to Parker, which functions as a bar / forum where they serve martinis and listen to jazz. To these

Referents is the case of Candy Blue, whose branch of Colonia Clavería, in Mexico City, has a rockabilly band from Thursday to Sunday.

You can also make your own hamburger bun and have it ready for your customers. The exposed oven can even be part of the culinary appeal. Create special or themed menus, make your own meat mixes and, why not? Have a bar of desserts, smoothies and milkshakes with direct access to passers-by. Another option is decoration: you can go for the traditional look & feel that evokes the wonderful years (50 and 60), or put your personal stamp with your own design and atmosphere.

“In these years my concept has evolved; I like to surprise clients. When I started (on Orizaba Street, in Mexico City), the touch was that of a lunch box mixed with a diner. The Oaxaca branch is in the Art Deco style and in the Colonia del Valle it has a 1930s style. The Satélite branch was set in the 1960s, with a concept aligned with (the cartoon) Los Supersónicos, which we will relocate shortly. ”, Explains Miguel de Papa Guapa.

Relationship with customers

One of the most important factors for the success of this business is, without a doubt, the relationship that is built with customers to retain existing ones and attract more. For example, if you want to create brand loyalty and recognition, start by being impeccable in your dealings. In daily contact, you want your staff to always have a smile and adequate training, while in online relationships, make sure you offer trust, security and immediacy.

You have to be on social media. On Facebook, take advantage of the fact that diners seek opinions and share experiences to post promotions and arts alluding to the brand. On Instagram and Pinterest, rock everything from cymbals to waiter dances to liven up the day. On YouTube, upload small clips that include the preparation of a certain food and, on Twitter, post posts about the day’s news or related to trending topics .

Distribution channels

Once the form of relationship with customers has been defined, plan the main distribution channels: a) on-site sales, b) telephone orders with the service of own delivery people or c) through a delivery platform such as Uber Eats or Rappi.

On- site consumption favors the elimination of additional costs and helps brand positioning. Shipping with its own personnel, meanwhile, can generate extra expenses such as having to hire a delivery person and invest in means of transport (motorcycles or bicycles), while delivery platforms charge the company a percentage on the ticket. total.

“These platforms are a different form of sale; in the end, it’s a way for the public to get to know you. Rappi charges you 25% and Uber Eats 28% of the total bill, but it is a sales channel. I prefer to reduce my utility and for people to know me, ”says Carlos Chávez, the creator of Candy Blue, a diner with two establishments (Roma and Clavería).

Regardless of the options you adopt, you must respond to the needs of speed. To do this, it establishes very precise operating processes both for food preparation and for receiving orders (either on site , online or by phone), as well as for delivery, through creating policies. Remember that the quality of your service must be seen from beginning to end.

Operating a diner requires the deployment of various physical, technical and human resources that constitute the basis of the operation, facilitate the delivery of the value proposition and contribute to the fulfillment of business objectives.

Initially, a commercial premises of 120 square meters are required with facilities to carry out hydrosanitary modifications, as well as to install gas and electricity. It should be distributed in reception, cashier, sales floor, kitchen, office and warehouse. It is ideal that it is surrounded by communication routes and that it has parking (or an agreement with one nearby) to offer better service to your customer.

The number of employees depends on the size of the restaurant and the complexity of its operation. So while Candy Blue has six employees, Parker & Lenox employs 40, Papa Guapa 100 and El Meredero 150.

The workforce can grow as a result of the influx. For example, on weekends, which is when there is more movement, you can hire additional staff by the hour through outsourcing . With this, you guarantee that the operation is carried out in a timely manner, and that your clients have the service they deserve.

What positions should you fill? The main one is that of an executive chef, who has kitchen assistants, waiters, floor assistants, in addition to the cashier and a manager. To attract this staff, you can approach the National Chamber of the Restaurant and Seasoned Food Industry , which offers a job board service with trained personnel for its members.

Sources of income

In a diner, the income flow comes from the commercialization of products, so you must achieve a comprehensive concept, which on the one hand attracts diners based on the concept and experience of the place and, on the other, through its cuisine.

Merendero, for example, has 14 types of hamburgers, milkshakes, smoothies , ice creams, as well as wings, chicken fingers, potatoes, nachos, salads, soups and some main dishes. For breakfast, it offers juices, fruit, pancakes , waffles , eggs and specialties such as Croque Madame.

“Our specialty is hamburgers and milkshakes. We offer quality, adequate portions and very affordable prices. The average ticket is 160 pesos and includes fries and hamburger. It can go up to 180 pesos with a milkshake, ”says Jonathan Picard, a partner at Merendero.

Papa Guapa, meanwhile, offers a menu of 16 baked potatoes named in a singular way: Papa Félix, with pico de gallo, flank steak with cheese and avocado; Papa Monroe, stuffed with shrimp and cheese; the Anderson Papamela, with shrimp a la diabla and cheese.

“An average ticket is 180 pesos; enough for a potato, a drink and a dessert. All our ingredients are natural: we use the best meats and cheeses and in generous portions. We have a kitchen and a central office. In the kitchen, we prepare the sauces, marinades, and dressings. We do this to standardize the flavor ”, explains Miguel Morales, creator of this concept.

At Parker & Lenox, on the other hand, they have hit the spot with a scheme that, in addition to income from the sale of traditional hamburgers and other dishes of American cuisine, such as pea soup and pork belly, collects tickets for the bar , which has cocktails to enjoy while listening to jazz.

“Although hamburgers are very accepted, in Mexico people do not know that the United States has a great gastronomic culture. Without a doubt, you have to evangelize the market and be patient, ”explains Ricardo Franco, creator of the Parker & Lenox concept.

Like these entrepreneurs, get started and maintain a steady income stream. Merendero, for example, is committed to building loyalty among its guests. “We do different things all the time: from birthday promotions to a challenge where whoever eats more than 15 hamburgers doesn’t pay the bill. We also have the dance challenge with the theme of Pulp Fiction : we give a couple of milkshakes to the couple who dance the best ”, says Jonathan Picard, from El Merendero.


Diner-type restaurants can make different types of strategic alliances or agreements. Approach the Human Resources areas of companies and offer discounts or special promotions for their employees. We also recommend making these types of agreements with universities, high schools and high schools so that you attract young clients.

Likewise, you can look for brands that tie in with the retro wave and use your diner as a trigger point for events that they propose, or act the other way around, taking your culinary offer to a massive event that summons the target you want to reach.

Another idea to attract customers and create fun moments is to organize dance contests in the purest rockabilly style. To do this, you can reach an agreement with schools or instructors of the genre. The idea is that they give some class in the place, that they offer special discounts to the parishioners. You can also do the opposite: visit schools or places that congregate music lovers from the 50s and 60s to give them special discounts.

Key activities

The day-to-day running of a restaurant requires the strict supervision of various processes in the warehouse, kitchen and sales floor. Ideally, the entrepreneur knows the operation of each area and establishes standards.

In this sense, the warehouse takes on an important value as it is the heart of the restaurant’s supply, which is why it is advisable to manage it under the FIFO system (first entries, first exits) to guarantee fresh food and limit as much as possible losses due to a product issue. expired.

How often should you stock up? That depends on the movement that the restaurant registers. If the demand is high, you can buy the perishables daily or every other day; You can also stock up every week, although you run the risk that some products lose freshness. Groceries can be supplied every 15 days or every month.

“I try to network with independent providers. For example, bread makes me a gourmet. Many things are brought to me, but what for no reason I leave in the hands of others is the choice of meat because the quality of the ingredients is my differentiator. I personally like to go and choose it, ”says Carlos Chávez, owner of Candy Blue.

In the kitchen, there are also key processes in terms of the preparation, conservation and even disposal of leftover food. In this regard, it is convenient to make process manuals with the help of the area managers. This will serve as a guide for employees to know their responsibilities and what to do to improve the operation.

At the same time, take care of the activities that take place on the sales floor, as it is where your main judge and, at the same time, consumer is located. First of all, make sure that your staff has an attitude of service and that their presentation is consistent with the concept of the place. The idea is that they contribute with their image to enrich the consumer experience.

Cost structure

To open the curtain of a diner, you need working capital for six months and equip it with furniture ( vintage or new) that reflects the spirit of the 50s and 60s. The sales floor requires a bar with eight high benches, six cabinets and seven tables with four chairs each and three high chairs for babies.

The kitchen, for its part, needs an industrial stove, iron, microwave oven, fryer, blender, food processor, stainless steel work table, refrigerators and various utensils (pots, pans, knives, spoons, etc.). You will also need glassware, crockery, and silverware, as well as a smoke extractor.

You can buy floor furniture from specialized distributors or have it custom made, while kitchen equipment is sold by brands such as SanSon and ToroRey. The cost depends on several factors. For example, if you choose something second-hand, check it out and do a cost-benefit analysis.

As you can see, a diner type restaurant is an ideal business to display your creativity. Start with all the attitude! Get trained and listen to the advice of the experts.

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