Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - With over 25 years of experience in the business, Michael Boufford and his restaurants have been a staple in Puerto Vallarta's Romantic Zone community for over 5 years. Known for his signature dishes, personal touch and professional staff, Michael has transformed Vallarta's fine dining experience, offering distinct international flavors and exceptional quality.
As with many businesses throughout the world, the recent COVID-19 global shut-down has affected a number of local establishments throughout Puerto Vallarta. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Michael to discuss how recent events have affected his business, the food service industry, his employees, and the gradual reopening of his three restaurants.
Taniel: Thank you, Michael, for spending a few minutes with me. I know you are quite busy these days getting your three restaurants back up and running. Before we get into that though, what was your initial reaction when businesses were told to close up in March?
Michael: To be honest about that no one told us to close up. Our restaurants were the first to close in the city. We posted on Facebook and our websites and 2 days later you could see others following our lead. With what was happening all over the world and the chatter on the news I could tell it was getting too close to home. I remember the day well. I pulled a meeting with all the team members from each restaurant as we spoke about what was happening and what was coming. We normally decide to close for holidays in September for the entire month so we all agreed to just take the vacations sooner and that we would just stay open in September. Not knowing then it was going to be 3 months shutdown.
T: What were your employees' reaction and how challenging was it to manage keeping them on board until further notice? Did any of them leave indefinitely?
M: All the team members were very on board. For them it was a paid holiday and they could be with their families while waiting this out to see what's coming. We have a 100% return rate of team members. We are all family and we stick together in the good and in the bad.
T: What did you do with your time since the shut-down?
M: Me personally, I chilled a bit and worked in my home garden. I finally took some time out for myself and worked on a nice tan, but also gained a few extra pounds in the process. Typically for the restaurants we use our shut down time in September for improvements to the spaces. Not much will happen this year as we our priority was keeping our team members paid while out of work.
T: A number of business owners I spoke with that rent out their retail space approached their landlords to try and come to a new agreement. Is this something you considered doing? Do you know if landlords of commercial spaces were amicable to helping find a short-terms solution during these months?
M: To be honest I am not sure of others and how they managed their leases. I would hope that they were able to come to an agreement to defer rent or some kind of consideration during these unprecedented days. If you go around the city you will probably see more places in the suburbs closing for that reason only. The fiscal intention has always been to save money for those unexpected rainy days or unforeseen circumstances. Unfortunately we were not able to work out a deal with our buildings and paid in full monthly. On the brighter side I don't have to worry about any back rent later.
T: When did you consider it might be time to start opening up your restaurants and in what capacity did you open?
M: Since around the first week in June. I have been thinking about opening for pick-up and delivery. No dine-in at all we had to do it slowly. We needed to make sure that we had everything ready in place and all safety protocols were ready. It's my team, so I wanted to make sure they felt safe first. We're a big family. All 68 of us!
T: What was the reaction when you started Take-Out/Delivery service at Siam?
M: I think for the most part very positive. Once word got out that we were open for pick-up and delivery it has been very steady. Last week we decided to include Bravos on delivery with a revised menu and it's worked out well. We will be opening up Poblanos this week for delivery as well. The success of our delivery service is that we don't use an outside third-party carrier. We use our very own team members who have cars. There is a small fee but that goes directly to the driver and the tip at the door he keeps and we pay a wage. We know our product is getting to you safe, secure and fast.
T: How was it like bringing back your staff? Did they all come back?
M: It was a great feeling to see them all walking in the doors again. Every single team member is back in one way or another. We're very fortunate and proud of our team members.
T: What was the process implemented by the government for you to be able to open your doors to the public again? How difficult was that? How long do you think you have to follow these protocols?
M: The process was easy and can be done in a short period of time. We have our city, state and federal government's protocols in place and a few more. I can't answer for how long but it will be for as long as it take and then some. If I had to guess I would say well into 2021.
T: When did you start offering sit-down dinning again? What was that experience like? Did you have to make any changes in the way you conduct your business now?
M: This past week I decided to open up very slowly our doors to public to the point that we never actually mentioned it on our media sites. It got to point where we would turn people away at the door saying sorry not open for dine in. The time came and we all agreed that if we have all the protocols in place let's try. My teams still don't know that I sent in Secret shoppers to try it out and make sure we did what we said we were going to do. I am ALWAYS onsite and hands-on at the restaurants. Not much happens without me finding out. If I step out we have 68 team members that turn into managers.
T: Any words of advice you would like to give to other Puerto Vallarta business owners looking at reopening their doors?
M: Stay focused, make a plan and put your best foot forward and most important is to think about the guest first not the peso.
T: Thank you for your time Michael. I wish you and all your wonderful staff much success.
M: Thank you for having me here!
Michael Boufford is the owner and operator of three restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, all of them located in Old Town (Romantic Zone), offering international, South Asian and traditional Mexican cuisine. Click on the following links for more information on his restaurants: Bravos Restaurant Bar; Siam Cocina Thai and Poblanos Cocina Mexicana
Taniel Chemsian is a Senior Sales Associate at Timothy Real Estate Group, representing some of the finest properties and condominium developments in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - with a reach that spans the globe from his base in this seaside Pacific Coast tropical resort destination. His strong market presence and track record for excellence did not go unnoticed by the producers of HGTV's popular real estate series, "House Hunters International." Taniel has become a regular on the series, featured on the show more than any other agent in North America. For more information, visit his website, his Facebook page, or contact him at taniel(at)timothyrealestategroup.com.
The number one selling and listing agency in the greater Bay of Banderas region since 2011, Timothy Real Estate Group is a locally-owned and operated real estate brokerage with a strategic location in the city's Romantic Zone. Because the Puerto Vallarta area has varying neighborhood personalities, we practice localized real estate and, with 5 sales offices around the bay, we know our communities well. If you are looking to sell or purchase a property in the Banderas Bay area, please contact one of the Timothy Real Estate Group agents for the best experience in Puerto Vallarta real estate. For more information, visit TimothyRealEstateGroup.com.
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