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Here’s where Orlando restaurant chain Agave Azul may grow next
By Steven Ryzewski
Staff Writer, Orlando Business Journal
Dec 13, 2022
Winter Park-based Agave Azul has four of its popular Mexican restaurants throughout metro Orlando — and more in the works.
In a different life, Juan Rios thinks he may have been an architect — or perhaps an interior designer with a focus on hospitality.
It’s one of the reasons Rios, the CEO of the Winter Park based Agave Azul chain of Mexican restaurants, said he likes to work closely with the architecture and design teams on the buildout of his company’s restaurants.
The latest of those is Agave Azul’s 5,000-square-foot location set to open in January at 5475 Gateway Village Circle, just north of Orlando International Airport, which Rios told Orlando Business Journal is receiving its finishing touches.
With his company having grown to four locations and 150 employees — the airport-area store will open soon and another new location at O-Town West is in the works — Rios will be plenty busy in 2023.
In addition, the veteran restaurateur, who has worked for along time with retail broker Bobby Palta of The Shopping Center Group on site selection, said he and his team also are open to expansion in metro Orlando and beyond.
Here, Rios spoke with OBJ about the outlook for his restaurants, the industry at large and more: You’ll be up to six area locations soon. Will Agave Azul expand outside of Orlando next?
We’re family-owned and -operated, so our growth isn’t super fast, and our family has done business in Orlando for 20 years now. I think the closest next step would be Tampa. We are looking in that area, but there are no dates yet or anything specific.
Have any of the necessary changes the restaurant industry made to get through the Covid-19 pandemic stuck long-term?
Obviously, what stuck was that we had to shift into more to go and take-out service. It was a tough transition, but we shifted and did more social media and more online advertisement. We partnered with Uber and that helped a lot. It helped us out learning how to do to-go orders, which further put us in position where we’re looking to do fast casual concepts coming up, as well.
What workforce trends has Agave Azul seen coming out of the pandemic?
During the pandemic, we saw the workforce change a lot — we started seeing a lot of younger demographics that would apply. That was a hard change, because we were going from more full-time employees to more part-time employees.
What have you learned about leadership as Agave Azul has grown?
Just to stay one with your team. I think that’s one of the driving forces in the business. You’ve got to treat your people with the utmost respect and let them have decisions
that help your company grow.
How did you get into the restaurant business?
My parents have had restaurants all their life, as far back as I can remember. I was born and raised in the restaurant industry, from living in Atlanta then moving to Virginia Beach, where we had our first location. From there, probably when I was 15, we moved down to Central Florida and found a little location in Apopka. We started there and grew a family business.
CEO, Agave Azul
Full Orlando Business Journals Article Here