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    Influencer Series | 5 min read

    Manny Favela | Co-Founder at Burrito Parrilla Mexicana

    Manny Favela served as Chief Financial Officer for McDonald's Latin America from 2004 to his retirement in 2016. In this role, he was responsible for the Finance, I/T, Franchising and Development functions with over 2,200 restaurants and annual system-wide sales of over $5.0 billion dollars. 

    During his 26-year career in the McDonald's System, Manny was a business partner and advisor to McDonald's Senior Management – he has extensive experience with Company Owned and Franchise Operations. Responsibilities included monitoring the overall financial and related business performance, proactively addressing issues and concerns, and developing long range plans and strategic direction. 

    As a business leader, Manny is an Entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Burrito Parrilla Mexicana, a Multi-Unit restaurant chain of Mexican Restaurants in the Western Suburbs of Chicago. Manny serves on the Boards of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Nuestro Queso LLC, a Hispanic Cheese Company. He is also involved in his community serving on the Board of Elders at Wheaton Bible Church and was co-founder of the West Suburban Foundation for Disabled Veterans where he still serves as a Board Member. 

    Manny is a CPA and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from The University of Illinois in Chicago. 

    Q: What is the biggest challenge you have met in your career?

    Manny: My biggest challenge was when we opened our first Burrito Parrilla Mexicana Restaurant. The business case made a lot of sense and I always assumed that if you had the right concept, executed well, and offered customers a great product, the business would perform well from the beginning. 

    I underestimated the challenges of developing a new brand. We executed well, our Restaurant looked great, employees were well paid and happy, and we provided great tasting fresh food, but our customers didn't know that. 

    The business started very slowly, and we lost approximately $200,000 the first two years in business. My business partners were discouraged and were very reluctant to continue injecting capital into the business. Fortunately, I was able to look at the business from a different point of view and I was encouraged, as long as, the sales trend continued to improve. 

    Our food was great, and our customers started to notice, and they kept coming back and bringing others with them. After the first couple of years, our sales started to improve significantly, and we came across another opportunity for a second restaurant. Despite the concerns with the first location, I was able to convince my partners to move forward with the second restaurant which started strong from the beginning. Now we have seven locations and two more opening soon. 

    Q: How you would describe your company culture, and what are the superpowers of your team?

    Manny: From the beginning of our business concept, it has been our mission to create an environment where our employees are treated with dignity and respect and earn good wages. 

    We encourage our employees to focus on providing great customer service and empower them to take risks and make decisions; such as, providing free desserts when appropriate, giving customers extra condiments, replacing their meal if they don't like it, or even giving full refunds if not satisfied. In addition, we made a commitment that if our business results allowed, we would implement a profit-sharing program with our key employees. 

    Currently, we are taking 10% of our profits on a quarterly basis and giving them to our key employees as bonuses. These actions have resulted in a healthy work environment for our employees and a significantly lower turnover rate then most restaurants. Most of our employees really care about our entire organization. 

    Q: What are some challenges or trends you see in hiring today? 

    Manny: The restaurant industry is facing a very difficult time finding staff driven by a very low unemployment rate and a strong economy. It is currently more difficult than usual to find great employees. We are thankful that the work environment we have created, the higher wages, and bonuses that we pay, have made it easier for us to staff our restaurants. 

    Most of our hires are referrals from our existing employees which is a testament of the working environment in our business. 

    Q: How would you describe your leadership style? 

    Manny: I am a visionary and I always have a long-term view of our business. I can see where we are today and all the issues that we need to address. However, I spend most of my time focusing on where we need to be in five years and making sure that everything we do today is helping us take steps in that direction.

    Q: Who inspires you and why?

    Manny: I get inspired by various people at different times. I am a person of faith, so I get mostly inspired by the Gospel which provides meaning to my life and a path of direction in all I do. 

    I get inspired by my mother who is a humble person and raised us to see what truly has value and not just professional success, status and material possessions. She always promoted love and unity in the family. I get encouraged when I think about Martin Luther King and how much impact he had on our society. How he had the courage to fight for what he believed in despite the challenges and difficulties.

    Q: Have you ever had an hourly job? If yes, please share with us your experience.

    Manny: Yes, I had hourly jobs during my high school and college years. These jobs served as a strong foundation to what followed. I worked at a hot dog stand which helped me get an idea about what the Restaurant Business was like and I also had a chance to meet the owner's accountant which motivated me to pursue this field. 

    I worked at a spring factory operating various types of machines. The Owner of the factory later gave me the opportunity to work in accounting once he realized I was studying accounting in college. I also worked for a mortgage company during my last year in College.

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