The new Posados at 3040 W. Gentry Parkway didn't just bring Tex-Mex to the north side of Tyler; it also brought nearly 60 jobs. Feeling that part of town is underserved by sit-down restaurants, Posados owner Andy Gugar and his chief operating officer John Corley say opening the company's 16th location there just made sense.
"I've been in the restaurant business for a long time, and I've never before had customers come up to me and hug me for choosing a location," Corley said. "We know the trend is for everything to go south, down Broadway Avenue and Old Jacksonville Highway, but we felt that this was the right location for us. This area could explode soon, and there's a real need for a sit-down restaurant, a nice place to take your family."
And customer response has been overwhelmingly positive, he said.
"We're pleased with the traffic so far," Corley said. "We have a restaurant on Fifth Street, and people questioned whether we were building too close and cutting into our own territory. But what we've done is give people downtown another lunch option. They don't have to drive south if they don't want to. Caldwell Zoo is close by, and we get lots of construction workers at lunch. And at night we have a home customer base that truly appreciates us building here."
A big part of that appreciation is for the jobs Posados has brought. There are four managers, and another 55 workers, both full- and part-time. Many of the workers live nearby.
"The reality is that with all the restaurants opening in the area, we're all fighting for the right servers, the right bussers, the right hostesses," Corley said. "But we were very satisfied with the applicants who came in and we're very proud of our staff."
And staff is key to a successful restaurant, he added.
"If we fail a customer, it's not going to be with our food," he said. "It's going to be with our service. And if we lose a customer, it could take months or years to win them back. That's why the right staff is so important."
In the 1970s, Gugar started Hickory Fare Bar-B-Que, built the chain to five locations and sold it four years later. Gugar also built the Papacitas concept from the ground up and within three years, sold it as well.
In 1986, Gugar built Mercado's at 2214 WSW Loop 323. He expanded the Mexican restaurant business with the first Posados at 2500 E. Fifth St. There are now 16 Posados, located throughout East Texas, the Dallas area and Louisiana, along with Mercado's and Happy's Fish House.
Overall, the Tyler-based company employs more than 1,300 people.
"We're looking at expanding even more," Corley said. "We're not in a hurry and we're looking at our options, but it could be another Posados or another Happy's Fish House. We have the luxury of going slow."
The focus, though, is always on the food.
"We don't open any cans when we start cooking," Corley said. "We create everything fresh in the back of the house every day. We even make our own tortillas. That's what keeps people coming back."
The most popular dish is the sizzling hot fajitas, with the company's signature fajita butter.
"And our salsa is popular," Corley said. "Here's a fun story. I got a call from a sergeant in the Air Force, who is stationed in Arizona. His wife is from Tyler and she misses our salsa. So we just sent her some for her birthday."
The company tries to keep prices low. The $6.99 lunch specials come with chips, salsa, tortillas and ice cream at no extra charge. Seniors can enjoy the lunch specials all day, every day.
"It's a very competitive business, and we know that," Corley said. "We're doing our best to provide the best value we can."
Bob Westbrook, chairman of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce and a former restaurateur, said the company's choice was risky, but potentially rewarding.
"It was a gutsy move," Westbrook said. "But when you take a look at the rooftops - the population - you'll see that area is truly underserved. It was a good move and I think it will be very successful there."
Westbrook himself opened a restaurant in the area, and it, too, was considered a big risk.
"I built a Cici's Pizza on the northwest loop, and even the company president came out to Tyler and said ‘Bob, I just don't see it,'" Westbrook said. "I told him to get in my car, and I'd show him. We drove through neighborhood after neighborhood. And that Cici's wound up being the No. 4 restaurant in the company."
It's all about vision, he said.
"If you go south, you're just another restaurant in a sea of restaurants," he said. "You've got to find a location where you can stand out. And that's what Andy (Gugar) has done."