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El Senor Sol – Recipe for Success

By Bruce Freeman

Felipe Duran of Denver, Co is a classic immigrant entrepreneur success story. Born in Mexico, Mr. Duran joined family in the US at age 14. Although he did not speak English, he and his family understood the value of education, and Felipe worked hard, graduated high school and went off to college. To pay his way, he did many jobs including dishwasher, construction worker, dental technician and food manufacture before he became an accountant. In 1992, his brothers invited him to help them in opening a restaurant. . The US Small Business Administration played a major role in helping Felipe finance his business. In 1995, he bought his brothers out and began to implement his vision for El Senor Sol, which he believed would improve business. Felipe Duran believes that the restaurant business is like a puzzle, where each piece interlocks with the others and attention to detail is paramount. Soon he had changed the menu, added new tile floors, new furniture, jazzed up the decor and upgraded the sound system. To make the puzzle complete, he worked with personnel to change the service level and approach to customers. The freedom to make decisions and steer the restaurant in the direction he wanted it to go proved to be a recipe for success. A second restaurant followed.

By 1999, he was able to quit his job and devote all of his energies to El Senor Sol. His recipe includes seeking new opportunities by searching out and leasing sites of previously closed or struggling restaurants in areas where Mexican restaurants are scarce. Once each new restaurant becomes a going concern, Mr. Duran takes steps to purchase the property. Owning multiple restaurants is different from having just one. Restaurateurs know that the ability to pitch in and solve problems on the spot is a key ingredient. With multiple sites, letting go of operational details becomes a necessity, but it’s a difficult transition. Felipe Duran’s focus had to shift to a broader perspective. Today, he watches cost of goods sold as the determining factor – a factor he allows to go no higher than 25% without explanation and comparison shopping among suppliers. Along the way, Felipe Duran has found that he loves the restaurant business. He believes that nothing in the world substitutes for love of what you do. Once you love what you do, you can keep up the pace longer than others without getting tired or sick of it. Attention to detail becomes a labor of love.

Professor Bruce’s Words of Wisdom

Felipe Duran’s hard work and success are not uncommon in this country, but hard work is not necessarily a guarantee; many hard-working people fail in the restaurant business. As Mr. Duran learned, it’s hard to share your time between two jobs, especially when one concern requires your constant attention. The sooner you can dedicate yourself completely, the better chance you have for success. Another important point for all business is the cash flow juggling act. Professors can talk about it, but until you do it for yourself, it’s hard to understand the impact of the anxiety. Even now with seven restaurants, Mr. Duran makes his own deposits and checks his cash balances every day. He likes to pay suppliers COD normally so when cash is low, they know he is good for it and he can ask for more time to pay. He also adjusts his salary based on sales and profits, a concept that can make home life difficult, but can make the difference between success and failure.

Case History:

Felipe Duran

El Senor Sol Restaurants

Entrepreneur’s Strategy:

Open restaurants in underserved markets following proven recipe for success.

Could This Work For Me?

Branching out into underserved markets is a good strategy for expansion.









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