How Home-Packed Lunches Became a Thriving Business In this episode, "Mexican Mom" Gina Antimo and her husband Jaime Reverté share how they foster a welcoming, family-like environment in their restaurant through customer service and authentic food.
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When starting a business, finding your niche can take you far. "Mexican Mom," Gina Antimo, first noticed a need for homemade Mexican meals 15 years ago when her husband, Jaime Reverté, brought lunches she packed for him to work and was met with questions like, "Can we have some?" and "Can we pay her to make us some?"
As her kids grew up and left home, Gina began to focus more on catering for local events by cooking from her kitchen at home. She even started learning how to can her sauces during the pandemic, just so her kids could have a piece of her with them.
"So that's how the name started. 'Cause I'm a Mexican mom. What can I tell you? Always taking care of my babies, even if they're old and they live on their own."
Gina's desire to take care of people and cook for them has become both the restaurant's namesake and defining feature. Mexican Mom is beloved by reviewers who emphasize that they're treated like family every time they come. Gina and Jaime even ensured they had an open kitchen so Gina could have personal interactions with her customers.
"It's like having your friends and family every day at home," Gina said. "I didn't wanna be in the back in a kitchen by myself. I wanted to interact. And that's the best part of my place—that I'm here. I'm everybody's mom."
Her hospitality does not go unnoticed. Yelp Elite reviewer Brett N. resonated with the atmosphere Gina and Jaime created and visited on two separate occasions with his son, who at the time, had a broken leg and low spirits.
"What separates the experience from just any other place that maybe offers great service is that both times, Mexican Mom herself came out to talk to us afterward," Brett said. "She just immediately came out and made [my son] happy and brought him toys and engaged with him. And you could tell within a moment that it was naturally who she is."
Caring about their guests extends to the food they prepare as well. Mexican Mom features a rotating menu with new and experimental menu items every week, including special requests from guests who miss certain dishes from their childhood.
"That's the best part of my job, that they even ask me for things that they have tried or that they had at home, but many years ago, and I bring them back," Gina said. "A lady cried [because] she was having memories, saying, 'My mom used to make this corn soup.'"
Gina and Jaime's flexibility also includes their approach to customer feedback, which they view as constructive and try not to take personally. When Brett, who otherwise provided a glowing review of the restaurant's menu, mentioned the chicken quesadilla was a little dry, Mexican Mom herself took action.
"When I read his comment, that's when it clicked to me. I fixed it because of him and his beautiful comment, and now I hear people coming and saying, 'I want the chicken quesadilla because they are the best,'" Gina said. "It didn't break my heart because I knew it wasn't the best. But it helped me a lot to improve my cooking. I loved it. I really appreciate it."
Other businesses can learn from Mexican Mom's journey, including the following tips:
- Add a personal touch to your restaurant, products, and service. Make sure the space reflects the community you want to create and how you want your customers to feel when they visit.
- View your customers as guests, not just customers. Forming relationships with people will inspire them to come back naturally. They'll be able to feel the care you put into the customer experience and will likely refer others to your business.
- Be flexible. Gina goes as far as to ask customers what menu items they might like on the rotating menu. Accommodating customer needs will build goodwill toward your business and help you gain lifelong patrons.
- Consider feedback as productive suggestions. By thinking of critical reviews as ways to strengthen your business, you can turn free customer feedback into positive results, like improving the customer experience, menu items, or operational procedures.
- Remember that success can look like different things. Business expansion isn't the only indicator of success. It can also look like running the business you have to the best of your ability.
Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Gina, Jaime, and Brett, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.