BBQ Dreams do come true
La Cabaña Smokehouse in Chihuahua, Mexico, is quiet possibly the greatest dream-come-true barbecue story that we have ever heard
By Kell Phelps, NBN Publisher
Omar Armendariz is not your average barbecue guy, but his humble beginnings sound much like that of thousands of others who simply have a dream to own their own BBQ restaurant. I met Omar and his crew while in Jacksonville, FL, back in March at the National Barbecue Association Annual Convention and Trade Show. After just a few minutes of hearing how their dreams are turning into reality, I was assured I had a front-page story that would both inspire and educate others who have that same dream.
La Cabaña Smokehouse got its start about six years ago. This fact alone is a huge victory for Omar and his crew. This is a huge success considering that over 75% of all restaurants fail within the first year. They started with a philosophy based on the Biblical scripture found in Colossians 3:23-24 that states, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." That philosophy – combined with the dream – was the start of this ultra success story!
The dream location included a nice wooden cabin, great BBQ ribs, and country music combined with some videos of their hobbies, which included hunting, fishing, rodeoing, and mud racing. This was the indoor concept but first they needed an effective way to smoke ribs. So their very first step toward making that dream a reality happened when they invested in a smoker that they built from two steel drums. While working to perfect the ribs, they started putting their ideas to paper while waiting for the ribs to cook. Soon afterward, the concept for La Cabaña Smokehouse was born.
They got their humble start while cooking on the sidewalk for friends and neighbors. It wasn't long before they were ready for their very first location. Their total investment for this first dream location was $4,501 U.S. dollars. That was $167 for a bigger smoker, $1,334 for equipment, and a loan for $3,000. This first place was a huge struggle for them because they relied heavily on their passion and enthusiasm to continue the grind. The payoff came soon enough, and 2009-2012 saw constant lines up to two hours long. There was no doubt the people of Chihuahua had never tasted anything quite like this, and they wanted more of this phenomenon that we call barbecue.
Their success in this start up location gave the crew a chance to save some money, while also searching out for bank credit so they could expand on that dream. A second and third location followed rather quickly, and in 2015 they had the whole city of Chihuahua covered and was named by Imperdibles magazine as the third best restaurant in the city and also was awarded with one of their top 100 restaurants in all of Mexico.
Currently, they have over 135 employees and also now have a franchiser license so they can begin to expand all across the country. Recently, they upgraded all of their self-built smokers to Southern Pride units that help them standardize their flavor profiles between all of their locations. This will also help their newer franchise locations achieve that same taste profile.
I asked Omar if there was one decision or event that has helped contribute to this overwhelming success. Omar told me, "Sure! Do not be afraid to grow or look for financial help and financial loans, and always think about total quality while always thinking big!"
I also asked Omar what is the next step for the Smokehouse. His answer was right in line with the rest of this almost make believe story as he told me, "Right now we are focused on our franchise model and getting ready to grant our next eight branches in 2017 in eight different states here in Mexico, with another eight in 2018. Our total goal is 50 franchised restaurants throughout all of Mexico, and we are excited and happy to be the thrusters of bbq in Mexico."
If I was a betting man, I could not walk away from this almost guaranteed success! You can follow their story on their website at www.smokehouse.mx.
Photo courtesy of NBBQA
Francisco Duran (Finance and business analyst), Alejandro Duran (partner), and Omar Armendariz (partner).
Photo courtesy of La Cabaña
From a homemade 50-gallon smoker to commercial Southern Pride smokers.