Juan and Rafael Vázquez, El Charro De San FranciscoKatie Smith
Organizations: Calumet Area Industrial Commission
The owners of El Charro de San Francisco are no strangers to the value of hard work. The Vázquez & Guzmán family have been on a 22-year journey to make El Charro De San Francisco the popular East Side neighborhood restaurant it is today. Jaunetzín Vázquez (Juan) worked for El Charro de San Francisco in high school when his dad and uncle owned the restaurant. His cousin Rafael Guzmán joined Juan and their parents to become co-owners. Rafael and Juan merged the idea of a traditional Mexican restaurant with their own business knowledge as millennials. They renovated the restaurant and expanded the menu. Rafael and Ricardo Guzmán lead the kitchen as head chefs. Juan is the front of house manager and is in change of the community events social media.
Prior to owning El Charro de San Francisco, the Vázquez family worked in agriculture and owned a food truck. Rafael’s father, harvested nuts in the fields of California. Juan’s father owned a lunch truck where he served tacos, gyros, and hot dogs.
Calumet Area Industrial Commission (CAIC) has been a key partner in the success of El Charro de San Francisco. Juan worked with Tracy Murray, Regional Business Coordinator at CAIC. “She told me she could help me with the permits, like the [permit for] the Sidewalk Café, and helped us to apply for local grants available, “ Juan said. Juan also got help from his alderperson, the East Side Chamber of Commerce, and the City of Chicago, who “helped a lot with the paperwork” for the restaurant.
“Most of the food we cook at El Charro de San Francisco is with the flavors of [my hometown] Jesús María Jalisco, in the highlands of Jalisco,” Juan said. “It is very flavorful.” When traveling around the US, Juan was surprised that he couldn’t find tacos in the Southwest United States that tasted like the ones from Chicago. “In our hometown, we prepare the tacos with onions and cilantro. In other places, they use lettuce and cabbage. But Mexico is huge, and the food is going to be different everywhere you go.”
When asked what the best part of running a restaurant is, Rafael and Juan say that the people are the highlight for them. Rafael loves working with the wait staff and serving customers.
Juan likes getting involved in the community and holiday celebrations. At the restaurant, Rafael and Juan pass out candy and gift cards for Halloween they have participated in the Christmas tree lighting for the last 10 years. “We enjoy having a good time with the neighbors,” Juan said.
We asked Juan and Rafael to walk us through the steps they took to develop the business idea for El Charro de San Francisco. Visit our Develop Your Idea page to complete your own business checklist and follow along with the video.
Develop Your Idea – El Charro De San Francisco
- Identify the Problem
What is the problem you are trying to solve?
Juan: “We applied for a liquor license. In [the East Side neighborhood], there are no other restaurants around that serve beer with tacos.”
What is my product?
Juan: “We have a huge menu with a lot of variation. We have tacos, tortas, gorditos, burritos, and zharro steak. We have 25 different types of dinner plates. We [also] have margaritas and Mexican beer.”
How will I price it?
Juan: “For the pricing, I had to do a survey of other restaurants. For the tacos and steaks, we wanted to be slightly below average. If the taco is three dollars, we sell it for $2.75. [For] some of the ingredients, the price is not stable. For the avocado, the price goes up and down. If the price of limes or avocados goes up, we try not to change the price often. If [the price goes] from 10.99 to 12.99, the customer is going to notice the difference.”
- Define Your Ideal Customer
Rafael: “The ideal customer is the one that comes and enjoys the food. And if he doesn’t like the food, he doesn’t get upset, he gives us constructive criticism. We are open for [feedback], just try to do it in a good manner.”
- Prepare to Sell Your Product
How will I market my new idea?
Juan: “At first when my dad and my uncle started, it was mostly word of mouth, there was no social media. When our customer saw that we were trying to do our best, they would recommend our restaurant.”
How will I make my first sale?
Juan: “We do TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, and we have our website. We are more involved [now] on social media. It is [a lot of work] to stay on track with all of them, but I try to do my best!”