Restaurants often use the word organic to describe their fresh food, but at Tortas Paquime, organic can also refer to the restaurant’s rapid growth in the valley over the last 11 years.
Tortas Paquime is a locally owned Mexican restaurant with five locations based in the busy Phoenix and west valley markets that are loaded with places for quick Hispanic-based foods. Despite the difficult Phoenix area, the restaurant has found success in the area with patience in a down economy and a distinct menu that focuses on maintaining Mexican authenticity.
“It’s not a menu that you find anywhere else,” said Omar Alvarez, president of Tortas Paquime. Alvarez said that the food on the menu stands apart due in large part to its origins from Mexican culture in Chihuahua and Juarez. “A lot of the things that we have are things that we used to eat at our house with our mom,” he said, referring to his own history growing up in Casas Grandes, Chihuahua in northern Mexico.
Alvarez said that he had no experience working with food and restaurants after moving to Phoenix 12 years ago with his family, but he chose to open a small restaurant with just three common items he ate in Mexico: The Torta Paquime, Tostada Paquime and a ham wrap. “Then we adapted into more products that are very typical and are very products that I used to eat when I was a kid, things that I like,” said Alvarez.
Despite a growth in the food that was served, Alvarez said the company wanted to continue the Mexican authenticity rather than serving Americanized products using heavy condiments and sides that are not general parts of Mexican culture.
Zach Plumb is a first-time customer of Tortas Paquime and he said that he enjoyed the food despite having no experience with products from that region of Mexico. “I thought it was different, but still very good,” said Plumb, adding that the clean and casual feel was more inviting than other restaurants in the area.
“The tortas in Chihuahua are a lot different from the tortas in Sonora and they captured the differences and the authenticities in a true Chihuahuan torta,” said Danny Honea, a Tortas Paquime customer. Honea said he has a lot of experience with eating this kind of food in Mexico and that the restaurant did well to completely bring the culture to Phoenix.
Faithful Mexican tastes were important, but Tortas Paquime may not have survived without patience for development in the crowded Phoenix area.
“I like to grow organically,” said Alvarez, referring to the plan of patience with the business and to take opportunities for growth only when they were available. “Let’s not rush things, lets take things as they come.”
Alvarez said that this business model was sometimes difficult when being pressed to expand to different locations and markets rather than choosing to wait for natural chances to appear. “We had the ability to grow a lot faster, and we haven’t done it,” said Alvarez.
This patience was possibly most difficult in the recent economic recession that endangered numerous locally owned businesses. “By the time it was down we were fortunate and we were still growing,” said Alvarez. He added that the company then used the changing market to gain new customers, focusing advertising to second and third generation Hispanics and modifying the menu to include customer favorites like tacos and salads.
These new markets have led to plans for expansion in the future to join Tortas Paquime catering and a Paquime style of street food for fast eating. According to Alvarez, the company has eyes set on possible enfranchisement and opening restaurants outside of Arizona. Alvarez reiterated that these plans are only feasible if the company can continue to naturally grow, although they are currently heading in the right direction for a big move in the future.