This is the latest entry in a series called Who Owns That. We've asked readers on our LinkedIn group to identify their favourite small businesses from across Canada, and we track down the owners so they can tell us their stories. Their answers are edited.
Introducing Andres Gonzales, the owner of Mambo Lounge, a Cuban-style establishment located on the Danforth in Toronto, Ont.
1. Can you briefly describe your business, including when it was founded, its goals, and why you chose to locate where you did?
Mambo Lounge is a concept that involves more than just serving food and drinks – it's an integrated desire to create a Cuban ambiance for our customers. Considering the fact that many Canadians travel to Cuba and enjoy its traditions like music, art, and the flavour of authentic food, we wanted to create an oasis of Cuban experience right in the heart of Toronto.
We provide a relaxing atmosphere for our customers while at the same time offering our deliciously prepared meals. Our Mojitos that are no doubt the best in town. We treat our customers with respect, but with an air of familiarity in a Cuban style that they welcome and come back to enjoy again this unique experience.
We opened Mambo Lounge seven years ago. I was attracted to the Danforth because it already boasts quite a few theme restaurants and I was convinced that a Cuban restaurant would fit in, and complement the offerings of this area.
2. What inspired you to be an entrepreneur and to launch this business?
As many in this country I dreamed of having my own business and delivering to it with passion and full commitment, of course with the support of my family.
We conceived the idea of a family business that would be both profitable and motivating. I enjoy what I do, and together with the family, we've put our time and heart into it. After seven years, we've proven that we've been on the right track and Mambo Lounge is still the go-to spot for many customers.
3. Who are your typical customers, and how do they find you?
Our customers are people who look for a place they can not only eat and drink authentic Cuban food, but also share and have a good time. There are not specific ages or group types, just general people looking for a unique experience. Mambo welcomes couples, family gatherings, groups of friends celebrating birthdays or special occasions.
During the summer time we organize Cuban carnivals in our back patio where we feature live music, dancing and cheering. And while we have people of all ages and backgrounds, they have one thing in common: they're all having a good time and enjoying a unique experience.
4. What is your role in the business? How many employees do you have, and what are you looking for in a hire?
I'm extremely determined to keep our business in line with our original idea. I've also worked to maintain the standards of the experience we wanted to deliver to our customers since the moment I opened Mambo Lounge.
We're a small restaurant with three employees besides myself. I keep an active role during the service process tending all details from the kitchen the bar and all the process of providing excellent service to our customers.
I hire persons who love the service and also have deep knowledge of the Cuban traditions and way of life. People who can smile and give a warm feeling of happiness even when working under pressure.
5. You've been identified by one of our readers as a standout business. What do you consider the key element of your success?
I take very seriously being both originality and consistency in this business. We have to be attentive and open to customers' feedback and they know when you're putting your heart to your work.
We've been very stable for seven years now and so the customers appreciate that. We will continue to be the restaurant of choice for Danforth visitors for years to come.