Fajita Pete’s, the “fresh off the grill” fajita delivery and catering restaurant founded by Colombian-born immigrant and entrepreneur Pedro “Pete” Mora, continues to prove its business model with its latest franchise deal to expand into a new market, Denver. Denver-based franchising group Four Guys Franchising, LLC, will open five new locations in Denver, Centennial, Littleton, Ken Caryl and Highlands Ranch beginning in 2021.
This most recent franchise deal marks the latest step in a journey for Mora and Fajita Pete’s. Mora, who moved to Houston with his family as a child, had an entrepreneurial mindset from an early age. His parents were successful business owners in Colombia until the civil war cost them their business and forced them to flee the country. Their success and drive inspired him to enroll at the University of Houston and major in entrepreneurship, and his parents encouraged him to work hard in hopes that he might be able to own his own business one day.
“I was interested in the restaurant business in particular because of the immediate, tangible feedback and the face-to-face interaction with guests, so I started waiting tables to learn the business and to save up money to fund my own restaurant,” Mora recalls. “After I graduated, I used every cent of my savings and a loan from my parents to open Poblano’s, a 6,500-square-foot, full-service restaurant with 60 tables—most of which I built in my garage with my dad. It was a dream come true.”
Though Poblano’s sit-down business was profitable, Mora wanted to find additional ways to generate revenue and began researching opportunities. He quickly learned that small-group catering for less than 40 people was an untapped market in Houston, as many restaurants just focused on larger-scale catering. Scoring catering gigs for energy companies and neighborhood groups provided the kindling for this spark of an idea. Mora began to develop a streamlined model built around a specialized menu of fresh and handmade items with a tight focus on off-premise dining.
When his lease ended in 2008, Pete officially said goodbye to the traditional restaurant industry by closing Poblano’s and moving forward with his new idea. He pared down his menu to essentials like fajitas, tacos and flautas and moved into a 1,200-square-foot kitchen that offered almost exclusively catering, delivery and pickup.
The new “Fajita Pete’s” was an instant hit with the public with its offerings and family-style options to go. But it was the business model that made the difference. The smaller footprint meant fixed costs were a fifth of what they had been at Poblano’s, while operating costs dropped by a third and food costs—with just 14 menu items based off five core ingredients—fell dramatically with little to no waste.
As his new business thrived, Mora opened several other Fajita Pete’s locations in Houston before deciding to expand the business through franchising. The low cost to build and operate a unit, plus the high-quality yet simple menu, he believed, would make an attractive opportunity to potential franchisees. His intuition proved correct, and today, Fajita Pete’s has 19 locations currently in operation, with signed deals to open more than 30 new restaurants in Texas, Missouri and Colorado.
“My success is equal parts being lucky, especially to have such a supportive family and team; being intentional with my goals; and continuing to get back up when I’m knocked down,” says Mora. “It was hard to close my first restaurant and change my vision, but I knew I really had something special with Fajita Pete’s, and I went for it. I know it sounds cliché, but I feel like the Fajita Pete’s team is achieving the American dream one fajita at a time, and our expansion into new markets and cities like Denver is another example of that.”