Rosa’s optimistic despite saturated Mexican restaurant market



    Jerry Bishop does not care that there are over 25 Mexican restaurants in the Provo area. He says his new restaurant, Rosas — The Arizona Legend — 1230 N. 265 West in Provo will be so successful, people will wait an hour just to get in.

    “You’ve never seen a restaurant like this in Provo or Salt Lake City,” Bishop said. “I could take this food to Alaska, New Orleans, or L.A. Once people taste it they will come back. That’s not rocket science.”

    If Bishop is right, he may want to bottle his formula for success and sell it to other entrepreneurs; 80 percent of Mexican restaurants go under in the first year. Those that survive dream of attaining the success other restaurants like Los Hermanos and Caf? Rio enjoy.

    Steven Stanley, owner of Caf? Rio, 2250 N. University Parkway, opened the Provo restaurant a year and a half ago. Stanley attributes his success to fresh and unique food. Everything in the restaurant is made from scratch, including the tortillas. Stanley, a chef for over 30 years, spent much of his life compiling the recipes he uses at his restaurant.

    So far, Stanley’s product speaks for itself. Caf? Rio is so busy at lunchtime that Joe LaFollete, a senior at Timpview High School, said he comes later in the day to avoid the rush. LaFollete said he eats at Caf? Rio every other day, and sometimes he comes twice a day.

    “I really like this food. I think it’s addictive,” LaFollette said.

    If it is an authentic Mexican atmosphere patrons are looking for, they don’t have to drive to Tiajuana to find it. La Tormenta Taqueria, 40 N. 400 W. in Provo, oozes with authenticity. From the Virgin Mary on the wall to the jukebox playing hits from Los Tucanos de Tiajuana and Banda Limon, La Tormenta is so legit, a beach vendor could come in selling straw hats without surprising a soul.

    La Tormenta doesn’t advertise, and from the wooden bars on the windows it doesn’t appear they’re looking for business. Like Caf? Rio and Los Hermanos, La Tormenta stays busy because of word of mouth.

    Stacey Fife, lead manager at Los Hermanos, 16 W. Center St. in Provo, says her restaurant also stays busy due to word of mouth. She says they do minimal advertising because customers send their friends. At Los Hermanos, the focus is the food and customer service, Fife said.

    Jerry Bishop is confident Rosa’s will attain the same success Los Hermanos and Caf? Rio enjoy. He says he “has covered the bases from A to Z to provide a taste so distinct and fresh people will have to come back.”

    Bishop also commissioned solid hickory tables for the dining room, flies in hand-stretched tortillas and even met with the head chemist at Pepsi Cola to “produce the best fountain drinks money can buy.”

    Olga Pretelt, 37, says her husband, John, of Columbia, eats at Rosa’s for lunch and dinner everyday. He comes, she says, because it’s good food at a decent price.

    Right now only the take-out portion of Rosas is open. Bishop said he expects business to increase dramatically when the dining room opens March 20.

    “It won’t be long and this place will be so busy we’ll have to build a second restaurant,” Bishop says. “That’s not optimism. We know what we have.”

    See related story:

    Mexican restaurants may be risky business in Utah 1/6/2000

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