“We loved Mad Mex from the start, we used to go there on date nights and think, how awesome would it be to own this store.”
For Christel and her then fianc, Ryan Walters, it was their first experience of the cuisine.
“We fell in love with the burritos and the nachos, and the vibe – the Corona chandelier and the music.”
So of course they picked Mexico for their honeymoon and were thrilled to see how Mad Mex had focused on the best of the local Baja food: the freshness, the quality and the flavours.
Back at home again the new Mrs Walters was ready, at 24, to take charge of her life and invest in a business. Approaching Mad Mex made perfect sense.
“I wanted to be my own boss, run my own team. We opened our store in Erina Fair almost two years ago. It’s been an amazing time. It suits our personalities.”
Working with her husband has been great, she says. “We have a good friendship and we know when to back off. We work really well together.
“I’m very operational, dealing with customers and the team. Ryan does the back office – invoicing, paperwork – so we’re not on top of each other. And he gets to lend a hand when we’re really busy.”
In a lively food outlet, a strong team is essential. Bucking the typical six month staff tenure in hospitality, the Walters have retained an extraordinary 99 percent of staff. It all comes down to passion for the team, treating everyone equally and like a family, rewarding hard work and achievement.
They’ve taken a risk too, employing three young staff with troubled backgrounds who had job-hopped.
“We gave them a chance to prove themselves, and we mentor them in life as well as business skills. Two of them are now on the management team.
“I love mentoring the team, to get them to dream bigger, do better. I love making people happy.”
The approach to giving a hand-up extends to local community, with the business sponsoring a local footie team, and supporting numerous charitable initiatives.
“We always wanted to be in a position to make a difference. Without this business we wouldn’t have been able to do this.”
The success of this pair has been meteoric – from newbie franchisees to being recently named Mad Mex Franchisee of the Year, the Walters have forged ahead and are opening their second store, a brand new look for the chain.
Mad Mex Cantina has a fresh beachy Californian style, explains Christel.
“It’s exciting to showcase something new. This feels like a restaurant, you place and order, take a seat and the food is brought to you on crockery. It’s not a fast food feel. The cantina has fresh juice cocktails. There’s nothing else like it.”
The couple are poised to launch this newest concept on Westfield’s new rooftop site in Kotara, Newcastle.
“We never dreamed we’d be in this position. Mad Mex has given us an opportunity to spread our wings, and reach for the stars.”
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