From Architectural Dreams to Culinary Realities: The Inspiring Journey of Restaurant Owner Gricelda Mata
In the world of culinary delights, success stories often start with a passion for food, an unwavering commitment, and the magic touch of authenticity. Gricelda Mata, the owner of the renowned Lindo Mexico Restaurante, embodies all these ingredients, and her journey from a humble startup Mexican restaurant to winning prestigious awards is nothing short of inspiring.
Lindo Mexico has carved its niche with fresh, authentic flavors and signature Margaritas, earning well-deserved recognition and accolades. Beyond the awards and accolades, what sets this establishment apart is a story of resilience, family, community, and a dedicated team.
In an exclusive interview with Foodie GR, Gricelda Mata takes us on a journey through the ups and downs of her remarkable career. She shares the secrets of her success, recounting how she started from the bottom and worked her way to the top of the Grand Rapids culinary scene.
Her story is a testament to the power of perseverance, embracing new dreams, and nurturing a lifelong passion for a career that brings people together over delicious meals. Join us as we delve into the inspiring narrative of a restaurateur who has truly come into her own in the restaurant business.
FoodieGR: How did you begin your career as a restaurant owner?
GM: It wasn’t my initial goal to become a restaurant owner. This opportunity came about because I took a chance. I had dreams of becoming an architect or an attorney. I contemplated the considerable time and financial resources those paths would demand, which my family couldn’t provide. Consequently, I found myself on a different journey. My brother, Chris, played a significant role in my venture into the restaurant business. He spotted a location on Clyde Park and 28th and suggested, “Hey, I saw this spot over there; you could open a restaurant!” I thought, “Sure, why not.”
FoodieGR: What was your prior experience in the restaurant industry?
GM: My dad had previously been involved in the restaurant business, and we had assisted him to some extent at home. We grew up in that environment, and I credit much of who I am today to my brother, Chris. He was the reason I embarked on this path. I took a chance without truly knowing if it was my passion, but I trusted my instincts. This journey has led me to discover my true self, even though I wasn’t aware of it at the time. I simply followed my intuition, which has brought me to where I am today.
FoodieGR: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a restaurant owner?
GM: Where do I begin? Often, we have a dream or an idea to start our own business, but we lack the necessary knowledge and resources, especially in terms of finances. This is a significant hurdle, particularly for minority-owned businesses. When we began, we used our savings, and that has been a substantial challenge. The most challenging part of our journey was finding resources for small business owners and locating mentors to guide our growth. It was a daunting task, considering my lack of background in restaurant management. Nevertheless, that inner drive keeps you from giving up.
FoodieGR: What do you consider your most significant professional achievement?
GM: From a professional perspective, I’d have to say it’s the recognition that Lindo Mexico has garnered through various awards. We were finalists in the Celebration Cinema award for customer service, and we received the community award, the business of the year award, and the business person of the year award. However, on a personal level, it’s the ability to create job opportunities for families. That’s more significant than anything else – knowing that you’re contributing to the local economy and making the community better.
FoodieGR: Reputation and success are crucial in the restaurant industry. How do you motivate your staff to provide excellent customer service?
GM: It’s an ongoing effort; it’s not a one-time thing. You need to keep implementing programs and understand your staff. Each member of our team has a distinct personality, so what motivates one person may not work for another. We’ve found that getting to know their individual personalities has been a beneficial practice. My manager, Gabby, has played a pivotal role in this. Along with the rest of the management team, we strive to understand our customers, asking them, “How can we assist you? What can we do for you?” We have an open-door policy, and our staff can come to us if they have any concerns. It’s about supporting them personally and showing them that we genuinely care.
FoodieGR: Opening and running a restaurant can be expensive and resource-intensive. What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own restaurant?
GM: First and foremost, ensure that this is what you genuinely want to do. Be certain that it’s your passion. The restaurant industry will test you on multiple levels, and without that passion, you won’t make it, even if you have the financial resources. You need to wake up every day and tell yourself, “I can do this. I have challenges, but I know I can overcome them.” Also, get to know yourself – recognize your strengths and weaknesses and work with them. It’s okay if you’re not skilled in everything; that’s why we seek resources in our community. Find the right people to support you.