Portrait of Brad Davis

Q&A with Multi-Unit Franchise Partner Brad Davis

President of restaurant development company turned around Mexican restaurant chain fortunes by switching to Costa Vida

With his restaurant development company, Abundant Brands, Brad Davis was looking to better tap into the lucrative and growing Mexican fast-casual market. They had a Mexican restaurant chain already, but it was underperforming and needed to be turned around. That’s when they looked into Costa Vida and saw a winning concept with amazing food and strong operations. Now, Abundant Brands owns 16 Costa Vida restaurants and continues to grow. Read on to see how they’ve found such success with our brand.

What made you decide to open your first Costa Vida?

I’ve been involved with restaurants for the better part of my career. I was enamored with Costa Vida; it’s a great, well-run concept. I began consulting with Abundant Brands before I became the president. We’re a restaurant development company with a number of brands, including Subway and Roxberry Smoothies, and we had a Mexican restaurant chain that was not doing very well. I had to determine how to either turn that concept around or convert it to something else. We did a ton of research and found that Costa Vida was the best opportunity for us, so we converted a number of those restaurants into Costa Vidas. As a company, we now have 16 Costa Vidas, some in Southern Utah and the rest in Salt Lake County.

What was it about Costa Vida’s operations or value that appealed to you?

For me personally, Mexican food is my passion and Costa Vida just hit it on all cylinders. We don’t have any freezers. All the food is made fresh daily and as a result, it’s just vibrant and good food. You know it’s made with great ingredients and it’s made with love. Then you start meeting the people behind the scenes and they’re just as genuine as the food is, so it was an easy sell for us to jump into the business.

From a guest’s perspective, what makes Costa Vida unique?

We do our best to hire smiles and encourage passion in our employees that are making this great, genuine food. At the end of the day, the customers have a lot of choices and the only way that we’re going to be their choice is by providing them with a great environment, providing them excellent food and giving them the service that they deserve.

The look is very vibrant and it seems to speak to the guests in ways that you can’t verbalize. You walk in and the ambiance just overwhelms you, and it’s a fun environment. It couples with the food in a very good way. Sometimes you don’t know exactly what it is about a concept, but you walk out the door knowing, “I want to come back.” I think that’s what Costa Vida’s hit the nail with; how the guests want to come back when we create that great environment for them.

Costa Vida chicken tacos surrounded by salsas and guacamole
When Davis’ restaurant development company was looking for a new Mexican restaurant chain for the growing market, Costa Vida turned out to be the perfect fit.

What is it about Costa Vida’s culture that makes the franchisor and franchisee relationship work so well?

The Costa Vida leadership team has been amazing. Everything from store site selection to design, to getting it permitted, getting your contractors in place to build it, to ultimately hiring your team and getting them trained; Costa Vida will hold your hand for the entire process, if that’s what you want or need. They’ll be involved as much or as little as you want, depending on your level of sophistication.

I think it’s important that Costa Vida owns and operates their own stores, because they’re not going to impose something upon us that they’re not willing to do themselves. They lead the way. When they want to launch a new product or a new initiative, they do it in their stores first and they prove its worth to us, and we can get behind it that much faster.

Costa Vida is all about empowerment, and that’s true in the stores, as well. We want our employees to know that whatever issue comes up, they have the personal power to fix it, whether it’s the food not tasting exactly right, or if it’s a customer that has a concern about something. They have the ability to resolve those concerns and make it right for them so that when that guest comes back, they feel like “Oh, I was taken care of that day.” Every employee, whether it’s the manager or the brand-new hire, has the ability to make it right by our customers.

What do you enjoy most about being a Costa Vida owner?

One of the greatest things about being involved in the Costa Vida concept is being surrounded by great people. Not only on our team, but on the Costa Vida team. It’s a great environment to be involved in, because you can learn from each other, you can grow with each other, and we build great friendships.

I think the biggest part of our job is to be in our restaurants. It is my goal every day to be in our stores to watch the magic happen and help the magic be created. The store-level team is vitally important. They’re the ones that really make it happen, but when we’re there with them, we’re leading by example, meeting with customers and resolving their concerns or just thanking them for being there. That resonates down to the lowest levels, and it resonates up to us as well.

As a multi-unit operator, how are you able to do that?

It’s difficult when you’re a multi-unit owner to be in all places at all times, but the important thing is to do your best. I’m in a different restaurant every day. There are very few times when I’ll go back to the same restaurant two days in a row. Being in the restaurant is so important that our goal is that whether it’s lunch or dinner, I’m going to be there for one of those each and every day. 

What are some qualities that the most successful franchise owners have?

The restaurant world is detail and the devil is in the detail. It’s often difficult to run a restaurant if you don’t have good restaurant experience, but that’s the beauty of franchising. Even if you didn’t have good restaurant experience, if you find the right franchisor like Costa Vida, they can help fill in the gaps in your learning curve. Yes, it’s easier if you have prior restaurant experience, but is it absolutely necessary? I don’t think so. The important part about partnering with a good franchisor is the trust level that you have with them. If they feel like you’ve got the capability of doing it, then you can have the confidence that, “Okay, I can make this happen with their help.”

Learn more and start a conversation

If you’re ready to learn more about the Costa Vida Mexican restaurant chain, visit our other research pages. To start a conversation, fill out the form on this page and we will reach out to you by phone to further discuss the opportunity.

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