Great food is not the only ingredient needed to succeed in the restaurant business in the current economic climate; a strong strategic business plan is mandatory to stay ahead of the competition. To make sure his seven restaurants continue to thrive, Michael Cordúa, co-owner and founder of Cordúa Restaurants, partnered with financial expert Juan Deshon, who became Cordúa’s CFO in April 2011, and since February 2012 is also the company’s COO.
The strategic partnership allowed Cordúa to focus his talents on the culinary development and ambiance creation for the restaurants, while Deshon established a solid business plan.
Cordúa has four name restaurants in seven different locations and a catering division. Churrascos, the first restaurant in the collection, opened in 1988 and was a pioneer of Latin fusion cuisine in the Houston area. In 2010, it was included in Esquire magazine’s “Top 20 Best Steaks in America.” Michael Cordua himself is the only chef in Texas to be inducted into the Food & Wine Chef Hall of Fame.
Churrascos now has three locations in Houston. Cordua Restaurants also has two Americas restaurants, serving upscale cuisine from the Americas – Artista, located at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, and a casual, relaxed atmosphere offering with Amazón Grill.
Cordúa Restaurants Latin cuisine starts with ingredients indigenous to Central and South American: potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, corn, avocados, guavas and chocolate, to name a few. Their signature Churrascos steak is seasoned with chimichurri, a traditional South American sauce.
The company’s catering business has gained momentum in the last couple of years under the careful culinary direction of David Cordúa, son of the founder, who joined his father in 2007. David Cordúa trained at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Paris and shares his father’s passion for culinary creativity. “Catering is limitless in terms of the experiences we can convey. Through customized, one-of-a-kind menus, we aim at stimulating all of the senses and create events that are reflections of our guests themselves,” he says.
But, as Deshon puts it, “There is nothing worse than having a great place that doesn’t make you a penny.” To enable the Cordúa culinary creativity to thrive and be expressed in an uncompromised way, the restaurants have to be profitable. “We want to make sure that we are strong financially so we don’t lose control of our own brand,” Deshon says. “We don’t want to end up looking generic.”
The way to ensure that independence is by striving to achieve what Deshon calls “Operational Excellence.” The main goal is to give people such an amazing experience when they visit a Cordúa location that they’ll go home and talk about it.
“The best kind of advertising you can have is when you have 350 guests walk into your restaurant and you deliver excellent service and food,” he says. Uncompromised food quality, excellent service and word-of-mouth are ingredients that have helped Cordúa grow its businesses over the last 25 years. Strategic partnerships are aslo on the menu to expand the Cordua reach.
“We are looking for strategic partnerships to help us grow in Houston,” Deshon explains.
One of those new partnerships is with the Food Network’s CityEats website, which highlights different restaurants in different cities. “You can go on the site and take a tour of the restaurants, see Michael [Cordúa] talking about the food and have a virtual experience before you make a reservation,” Deshon explains. This will be rolled out in early 2013.
Deshon believes the Cordúa brand can extend to other areas in the United States. “We believe our brand is sustainable and would do great in other markets, for example Miami, a metropolitan area that likes Latin fusion food,” Deshon says.