Arbour Cafe and Calexico restaurants owner, Larry Hodes shares his entrepreneurship journey in the food industry and his success tips to young people
What sparked your passion for the food industry?
I have always been attracted to the food business and I started waitering when I was around 15 years old when child labour was still allowed. I have since worked my way up the culinary ranks and eventually ended up at the Palace of the Lost City where I was Operations Manager for a few years.
Journey us into your career before starting your food businesses
I got a job as head of HR and training at Mugg and Bean head office for six years, helped open many restaurants and was involved in Operations. I then bought two Mugg and Bean restaurants as a side business. In 2014 I decided to leave the franchise model and start something of my own. I wanted independence and to add my own personality to the restaurants. I bought Stanley Beer Yard in 2014 and then bought Arbour Café in 2016.
Why did you change the name from Stanley Beer Yard to Calexico?
I won’t lie there was a big emotional journey to changing the name of the restaurant. By rule, a restaurant has to revive every five years and Stanely Beer Yard was entering its sixth year. This was partly the reason. Michael Vacy-Lyle who has since joined me as a partner to the business played an important part in revamping the restaurant.
What were some of the challenges you came across as an entrepreneur?
Often entrepreneurs think that things will always work out. From experience, I believe that the strength that each entrepreneur needs is resilience, resourceful and perseverance because things don’t always work out the way you want them to, especially in the beginning. The number one mistake I have observed is that people give up. I also come across certain pitfalls and disappointments in the business but I understand that it comes with the territory.
What usually makes businesses fail?
This is where resourcefulness comes in. The main reason many people say they don’t venture into businesses is that there isn’t enough money. I believe otherwise, as it’s usually a lack of ideas, initiative and how much you want to see your goals come through. There’s a saying that states that you don’t need more money to do anything, you need a better strategy. Yes, money gives you certainty but many people don’t take risks when it comes to business because it doesn’t give you certainty, but isn’t it true about life itself? Life is never certain. Everything starts in the mind if you feel you lack or have or won’t achieve much the world will make you experience what your mind thinks.
Tell us about the name change, why is the restaurant called Calexico?
The name was inspired by one of my favourite bands, Calexico that is based in California. Michael and I wanted to do a Californian boho and that’s what inspired the wooden interior decoration. You will also see Mexican influenced interior and menu because Calexico is California and Mexico. A lot of the food we serve is also Californian inspired.
What sets your menu and restaurant apart?
All our Mexican products are imported directly from Mexico. With our food we are becoming more ethically responsible; all of our meat is free range, and our sirloins are matured for 28 days. Every Thursday and Friday nights we have Vinyl DJs and have music across different genres that our customers can enjoy. We also have live bands on Saturday afternoons. We ensure that our customers enjoy their music as much as they do on the food we serve.
What are your success tips to aspiring entrepreneurs?
I have learned that it’s important to have the right team in your business. We have applied the same thing to Calexico where we hired great interior designers, chefs, and staff; as much as you have to save as much as you can get people who are good at what they do as that can make running your business easier. Importantly, get to know your market and what they want. Engage with them so that you understand how you can deliver the best services. The key to any successful businesses is how you render your services to your customers.