In early 2003, Mi Familia was already a well-established restaurant in Granbury. But, there were some serious problems.
Of these, the most telling was that absentee ownership had let a thriving business falter. As a result, menu consistency suffered, food quality dropped and service was haphazard. Moreover, the physical appearance of the restaurant was tired and shopworn.
Clearly, Mi Familia was a jewel in the rough when the Mi Familia partnership acquired ownership in February of 2003. However, it should be noted that the restaurant industry was still feeling the effects of 9/11, reflecting the flat sales figures of a country trying to regain its balance.
Cognizant of these treacherous waters, the partnership evaluated the situation by carefully assessing the positives and negatives of the situation. Without question, the menu offered a very balanced and customer-friendly blend of entrees, combinations and specialties. The core of the kitchen crew was solid. The front of the house only needed direction and a clear mission plan. Yes, there were some problems with a dispirited wait staff and front of the house enthusiasm at low ebb.
In essence, it was a classic business problem, one that begged the old proverb of “How do you eat an elephant?” Answer: One bite at a time. With that clarity of thought, Danielle Prosise – Mi Familia’s managing general partner and someone with over 30 years of top flight restaurant experience with national chains such as Steak and Ale and Joe’s Crabshack – started at the very heart of the restaurant: the kitchen.
In measured steps, the kitchen gained true consistency. As this step was taken, another began at the front of the house. A complete makeover of the dining area soon followed and the sales figures reflected the changes.
In just two months, the word was out. Mi Familia had not only regained its local reputation, but was exceeding all expectations. New customers who had written off the restaurant or never considered it an option were walking in the doors. Local bed and breakfast operations, hotels and business owners were promoting Mi Familia as a “can’t miss” place to visit.
How did it happen? Quite simply, hands-on ownership that valued every customer’s dining experience. Food cost and labor cost were all about business. But, making people feel comfortable and important was personal. Together, the cold, hard realities of business and the warmth of true dedication to guests merged in a synergy that profited everyone.
At the heart of the turn-around was Danielle. Tall and thin and driven, she was a force to be reckoned with. As a young girl, her dream was to own a restaurant. Called “flaca” by the Mexican cooks (the Spanish word for “skinny”), Danielle proved her mettle by out-working and out-cooking anyone who cared to challenge her fortitude. It didn’t take long for the Mi Familia crew to understand that she was one of them. Willing to work hard and never settle for second best, Danielle soon earned their abiding respect and, in doing so, set a standard that continues to this day.
Unwilling to rest on their laurels, the Mi Familia partnership took another bold step. For years, the smoking section of the restaurant had been nothing short of a dining gulag. Metal chairs, harsh lighting and a very real feeling of being the odd man out.
To the partnership, it was an opportunity. Granbury needed a comfortable, gathering place that appreciated the family values of the customers who had made the restaurant successful. In August of 2004, Mi Familia unveiled Iguana Mojado, a cantina that offered the eye candy of a Sundance Square watering hole, yet made it an acceptable part of the Granbury lifestyle.
From day one, Iguana Mojado was a hit. Whether for a quiet drink among friends or a birthday celebration, this cantina delivered in terms of atmosphere and service. For a town only 30 minutes from the Metroplex, Iguana Mojado gave customers a very good reason not to leave Granbury.
Like steel, however, true strength cannot be assessed without fire. Unfortunately, Mi Familia faced this test in December of 2004 when a surge protector – the simple, plug-in connection under nearly every desk in America – failed to do its job. A devastating fire (its origins in the office) tested the very ideals on which Mi Familia was based.
After six months of rebuilding, retooling and rededicating themselves, the partnership re-opened Mi Familia to capacity crowds. The depth of commitment from their customer base was truly gratifying. The dedication from those customers on June 1, 2005 and beyond has not diminished.
Even more gratifying was this: During the time Mi Familia was rebuilding from this devastating fire, two national chains moved forward on opening locations in Granbury. Of these, one was a Mexican restaurant chain, El Chico.
The result? In the months following Mi Familia’s re-opening (and the concurrent opening of El Chico), the restaurant tallied record-breaking sales. In the remaining six months of 2005, the restaurant posted over a million dollars in gross sales, a figure commensurate with the yearly sales of the store when they acquired ownership in 2003. Yet again in 2007, Mi Familia shrugged off the opening of Mexican Inn with an increase in sales and did the same in 2008 with the opening of Jalapeno Tree.
Unfortunately, Mi Familia had to face another challenge. The sudden death of Danielle Prosise to a brain aneurisym left a palpable void in the Mi Familia family. Although devastated by her loss, those who had learned from her, who had been guided by her and even been helped through personal ups and downs by this vibrant woman, did not lose faith. Instead, they responded in a manner that Danielle would have appreciated: They buckled down and did it Danielle’s way. If there was ever a question of how something was supposed to be done, the answer was simple: How would Danielle have done it? After her death, the employees wore t-shirts posing that very question: What would Danielle do? Many of those employees still work at Mi Familia. With her dream, with Mi Familia, Danielle changed lives. In business, she was tough and unyielding – qualities that made her restaurant grow and the people she worked with her better as a result.
If a profit and loss statement can show more than just cold numbers, they paint a compelling picture. Professionalism, commitment and vision are the reasons why. Mi Familia is a family – from the people who staff it to the people who dream it.
The new Mi Familia location in Stephenville was yet another measured step that fit neatly into the business plan. Not only did Mi Familia/Granbury have a customer base and reputation in this community 30 miles south of Granbury, the Mexican segment of dining opportunities was very weak.
Moreover, Stephenville is a community predisposed to frequenting local businesses. An hour south of Fort Worth, Stephenville residents are less likely to make quick trips to the Metroplex – especially with gas prices rising dramatically. And the 11,000 students at Tarleton State are an important part of the overall customer pool.
With the advantage of starting from scratch – where all of the lessons learned in Granbury could be applied to great effect from the very start – Stephenville proved to be a successful template upon which to grow.
In just the first year, the Stephenville location was on track to not only rival Granbury, but to surpass it.
At present, the Granbury and Stephenville locations of Mi Familia have become firmly entrenched as restaurants where families gather, teams celebrate, important occasions are remembered and everyday life is enjoyed. These are places where one generation brings the next to appreciate what they experienced growing up. For those of us at Mi Familia, being a part of the fabric of their lives is an honor. From the first achievements of a Little Leaguer to the Olympian dreams of someone like gold-medalist Dana Vollmer, our customers return to their roots to celebrate accomplishments both large and small. To them – to us – we are family.