Tony Roma’s Franchise Review by Rick Guerra
Texas businessman invests nearly 25 years of his career in our brand
Franchisee Rick Guerra had an established career in the hotel industry when friends in the restaurant business approached him with the opportunity to invest in Tony Roma’s. He didn’t hesitate to say “yes” — even taking a pay cut and investing his savings in our brand.
Like many of his peers from his generation, Rick had fond memories of Tony Roma’s from childhood, and during the past two decades, he’s seen our brand continue to be sought out by a new generation of fans. “My family and I never took a trip to San Antonio where we didn’t stop at the Tony Roma’s there,” Rick says. “I fell in love with the brand 23 years ago, and I’m still in love with it.”
Rick owns successful Tony Roma’s locations in McAllen and Laredo as CEO of Costillas Ltd. “Tony Roma’s is a great brand name with historical perspective. Everyone I talk to has fond memories of eating at Tony Roma’s.”
Tony Roma’s is known worldwide as THE place for RIBS. After years of fast-paced international expansion, we are introducing a new generation of domestic customers to the Tony Roma’s experience with a goal of 250 new locations over the next 10 years. Our brand is stronger than ever, and there’s never been a better time to invest in a restaurant that does ribs better than anyone in the world. We have tremendous brand equity, visionary new leadership and ample domestic expansion opportunities. We offer a lower initial investment than many upscale casual dining, full-service restaurants. Through all our new developments, however, we’ve never strayed from the core DNA that has made us famous worldwide.
Rick has seen a lot of exciting change with our brand, as well as customers making memories.
What makes Tony Roma’s different from other casual full-service dining concepts?
Tony Roma’s menu is unique. How many brands do you feel just as comfortable taking your spouse for an anniversary or birthday dinner or your boss out for dinner but also take your kids after a soccer game?
Tony Roma’s customer base is a special mix. It’s fancy enough and casual enough that whichever hat you are wearing that day, you feel comfortable going to Tony Roma’s. Our burgers are great, and so are our salads — and we sell Kickin’ Shrimp like there’s no manana.
The other thing that we are seeing now with our nice redone bar is it is much bigger and attracts a wide range of customers, from groups of ladies coming in to share a bottle of wine for happy hour to business people.
What is it about the quality of Tony Roma’s food that sets us apart?
At Tony Roma’s we’ve made strategic changes to fuel our success and update the brand without affecting the core of what we are: ribs, steaks and seafood. The execution and specs of our food are rigid, which is a necessity in today’s competitive industry. We also keep enough variety in our menu offerings to make it attractive to people with any size appetite. My wife can have a salad or steak or ribs, and we sell an unbelievable amount of salmon. The quality of our food has never been better.
What do you think of the new restaurant design and look?
Our newly renovated McAllen restaurant is doing very well. Both our guest satisfaction scores and sales are up in a market that is down. Our staff is so proud of the new restaurant, and as a result they are providing better service. Morale is also higher than ever.
Guests also like the new layout. Here’s a recent text I received: Rick I hadn’t been able to try your new location until this last weekend and both the service and the food were fabulous!! And your staff is top notch. Thanks for a great experience. And I get those kind of comments a lot. The new look is modern and updated, and we’ve expanded our bar to get just the right mix of customers who can have dinner and drinks or watch the game or meet other business travelers.
What would you tell others who were interested in investing in Tony Roma’s?
The staff, the product and training are great. If you have the right location and run it correctly, it will do well. Tony Roma’s is a brand that would do well anywhere.
There is a lot of sameness to other brands, but Tony Roma’s enjoys a good name recognition. There is opportunity for a lot of growth.
What do you like about the direction in which the new leadership team is taking Tony Roma’s?
The professionalism of the team at Tony Roma’s is top-notch. They are committed to maintaining our core principles, which is important because those principles are the foundation of our brand’s success. They are also accessible, which is something you don’t hear of at other upscale casual dining brands. If you call the corporate office, you get a call back immediately.
What attributes should a potential Tony Roma’s investor have to help them succeed?
They should either have prior restaurant experience or should hire someone with restaurant experience to help them run their business. The maintenance of the quality standards and service standards are so important to the success at the individual store level, as well as the brand overall. As a franchisee, I don’t want someone coming in and taking shortcuts.
What really makes a great location for a Tony Roma’s?
Your restaurant doesn’t have to be in a metropolitan area like Houston or Dallas. Secondary markets work fine. Location is key because if you don’t have a good location with the influx of all the brands today, you will be in trouble.
What is your customer base like?
During the week we have a lot of business people come in for lunch, as well as retirees. We also see a lot of commercial travelers, and we are located on the Texas/Mexico border so we get Mexican nationals coming in for later lunch and dinner. When you get all three groups of customers, you get a perfect storm. Families also frequent our restaurants — moms and dads who have been coming in for years and now they’re bringing their kids. Tony Roma’s is kid-friendly and it’s nice, but not too nice. It’s casual, but certainly not too casual. We fit a lot of different modes.
What is it about Tony Roma’s that has contributed to its longevity?
I think it is the product and the good memories people have of the brand. I love the brand.