Our restaurant's name is: ELOTE (grilled corn)
in phonetic universal language: e•’lo•te
We are located in Escondido California, less than 2 hours south of Los Angeles and 20 minutes north of Vatel San Diego campus.
The address: 1760 E Valley Parkway, Escondido CA 92027
I met my partner during my Curricular Practical Training (CPT) last year. Originally, we discussed with my partner about expending the family recipe, since his family is successfully selling the typical corn Elote like they do in Mexico. Elote is a corn stick with usually mayonnaise, cheese and spices sprinkled on it. We imagined the concept of a fast restaurant where corn would be the base ingredient to add various favorite toppings, like what the Subway fast food does for sandwiches. It would be easy to think of a chain based on this concept. We started to get excited with the idea of opening a fast restaurant in late 2019 early 2020.
In my class I was known for being the less likely to open my own business. My plan was to work with a luxury chain of hotels and climb the ladder to a senior management position. It’s funny how life offers you unexpected paths... today here I am, a young entrepreneur!
We are opening a fast-casual restaurant concept, focusing on high-quality food inspired by flavors of traditional Mexican cuisine. We offer a broader version of the traditional Mexican Elote. Our signature product: Roasted Corn!
The restaurant offers simple, seasonal, local meals – placing a particular emphasis on the freshness and quality of the ingredients. We will roast the corn in front of the restaurant and will ensure that customers can choose each ingredient in their meals: The main dish + protein and toppings. Sweet? Healthy? Spicy? Generous? Each meal is customized.
I wanted to stay in California because after spending almost 2 years here for my studies at Vatel USA I enjoyed my life so much that it was easy to imagine spending the next few years here.
Also because of my partner who is living here and because California has an open-minded, diversified culture with a Spanish influence. In addition, Covid wise, people are still going out to dinner and ordering online a lot. So it was encouraging for our business.
A big part of my decision to open a business in California rather than in France is that I feel it is easier here. People are more encouraging and the business laws makes opening a business less risky than in France where employment laws are rigid and expensive for an entrepreneur.
Yes, it definitely was challenging, especially in this period of pandemic. However, we did it and at the end of day you realize that everything is possible. We just needed to go step by step and make sure to put the effort where it was needed. We also got the services of an immigration lawyer which is a huge help.
To get more into the details into the procedure, we had to get approvals from different departments.
The city has multiple departments and each of them closely look into every details of the project. These different departments are: planning, zoning, engineering, fire department, and building department. Each and every department reviews the plans individually and provide comments to request answers to each of their questions. This process requires submitting plans, receiving corrections and handling the work to be done accordingly, and then re-submitting plans until all departments approve the project with all safety codes.
Our process has been delayed due to Covid-19 but also because our concept is not very common. We use a special corn roaster that is very specific and therefore they had a lot of questions that we had to answer.
There is also the health department. Their main concern is sanitation and it was not as complex as getting approval from the city.
The Business License and the Seller’s permit were actually a lot easier for us to get since it is pretty easy for a restaurant to comply with the requirements.
We did not apply for any alcohol license because as a fast service restaurant, we don’t think it is necessary and we were not ready to do this investment yet (in terms of money and time). However, we are thinking of applying for Beer and Wine License later on.
My education at Vatel USA really gave me the ambition and the confidence to believe in my project. Originally I was not business oriented. When I arrived from France after a Bachelors in Finance and Accounting and my 1st year of MBA at Vatel Paris, my goal was to work in a chain of hotels and become an executive manager over the years. But during the MBA program at Vatel San Diego, the professors really trained us to think out of the box, imagine new concepts and create new products. It widely opened my mind.
With Peninsula Beverly Hills where I spent my full-time internship to validate my Master's degree, my management skills and team building skills have hugely improved and gave me the confidence that I needed to trust that I will be a good manager.
Moreover, I now feel confident in my leadership skills as well. Working at Peninsula my aim and challenge were to make sure that my team was happy to come working with me every day, in a team spirit. It was important for me that each team member feel important and valued. I wanted to inspire their confidence and trust. I believe I was successful in that regard.
My first recommendation of course is to find a good idea, then perseverance - hard work - keep smiling, and a little bit of patience :)
For the visa process, a good lawyer! Even if you don’t have a lot of money you can still make anything happen.
Lastly, be flexible with what life brings you. I graduated first in my promotion in BA, got a double Master and MBA degree with Vatel USA and its partner Alliant International University, and now I am selling corn Ha-ha!
Wishing good luck to anyone who has passion and the will to act on their dreams.
“Vatel made me more open-minded and allowed me to meet people who contributed to making me who I am today.”
Aurélie Ponce - Operations manager for the Cheval Blanc Paris Hotel / 2006 Alumnus
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