The Tri-Cities soon will have a Fiesta Mexican Restaurant in each city, as the longtime owners prepare to open a third restaurant, this time in the Queensgate Drive shopping plaza.
Isidro Ortiz owns the restaurants with his mother, Teresa Ortiz, having launched their first one in downtown Pasco in 2001.
Since then, they have opened and closed a couple before settling on their largest site on Gage Boulevard in Kennewick, and on Road 68 in west Pasco.
They hope the expansion will continue a tradition of offering “a nice, friendly atmosphere with an amazing staff,” said Isidro.
The newest Fiesta will go in the former site of El Rancho Alegre, which operated a restaurant at the spot in Vintner Square across the parking lot from Target for a decade before closing earlier this year.
Isidro said he’s not concerned about customers thinking it’s the same restaurant with a new name. He believes he has established his own brand and people associate Fiesta with authentic food and excellent customer service.
“I think that once they give us that opportunity, we’re going to be good,” he said.
Isidro spent six years working in the hospitality industry, including working for Ritz-Carlton properties throughout the United States, before opening his first restaurant at age 21. He said this nationwide experience, especially as a banquet manager, taught him to deliver a high level of customer service.
A Mexican immigrant who came to the U.S. as a toddler, Isidro said it was actually his mother’s dream to own a business and get out of the seasonal labor positions she had been used to working.
He said her initial idea was to open a taco truck, but they bypassed that plan and opened a restaurant instead.
“I had nothing to lose. I had all this experience, and my mom had always wanted a restaurant, and until this day she has not stepped into the fields again. Now I’m her retirement and she doesn’t have to ever work again,” he said.
Isidro employs a number of family members, including multiple sisters and nephews.
There are about 50 workers across the two current Fiesta locations and Isidro is looking for about 15 to 20 employees in the new restaurant. The hiring process is underway as he hopes to find “passionate cooks and customer-service oriented servers.”
The remodel of the Queensgate location began in April and is targeted for completion in late May or early June. It will be the smallest of the three Fiesta sites, but will still include its signature salsa bar and tortilla station, as well as a tableside guacamole cart that the local chain has become known for.
The Richland Fiesta also will offer a private banquet room, which has been a popular feature of its Kennewick location.
Isidro said he hadn’t been looking to expand when this opportunity came available.
“We thought, ‘It might not be a bad idea just to try,’ ” he said.
He was comfortable with the current success that can sometimes include a one-hour wait on popular days, like Cinco de Mayo, at the location on Gage that seats more than 300 people.
Isidro said he was motivated to take on another restaurant because it wasn’t a large operation and he knew he could add it while keeping his efforts local, and not stretch his staff too thin, “We have a really good, positive vibe about the new place and we’re giving it that Fiesta touch,” he said.
The new restaurant at 2731 Queensgate Drive in Richland will be the first to highlight catering in its exterior marquee, as catering accounts for about 20 percent of the company’s business.
Other locations are at 8524 W. Gage Blvd., Suite 130, in Kennewick and 5210 N. Road 68, Suite L, in Pasco.
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