Customer loyalty and community ties define the Yelm Highway location of the Mayan Mexican restaurant
AIn some restaurants, the waiters are just waiters. They take your order, bring your food, and given the industry’s extremely high turnover rate, may or may not be around on your next visit. But at Mayan Mexican Restaurant on Yelm Highway, the waiters and customers are more like old friends.
Some of the staff have been working there for decades and several repeat customers come every day for their favorite meal. “One of the most common things I hear is that some customers ask for a specific server,” says owner Jose Sanchez. “They developed relationships with each other. I have also seen waiters giving and receiving birthday and Christmas presents.
Yelm Highway Restaurant is one of three owned by the Sanchez family. The others are on Pacific Avenue and Marvin Road, both in Lacey. This location differs from the other two on a key point. “It’s in a neighborhood,” says Sanchez. “We have had some of the same clients who have been coming in every day at 11 am for years. It’s the bread and butter of the restaurant.
When Sanchez started the Yelm Highway branch in the early 2000s, the area was not what it is today. the Briggs YMCA was not yet built and the 137 acres Briggs Village Planned Community did not exist. Indian Summer Golf & Country Club had a restaurant on his campus, but otherwise, only Farrelli’s Pizza & Pool Co. food served. In the years that followed, the population grew rapidly, as did the services needed to meet the resulting demand.
As in his other two locations, Sanchez wanted to intentionally create a warm and welcoming environment that would transport guests south of the border, at least in their minds. “When you walk in you will hear the music I grew up with. It reminds me of Mexico, ”he explains. “Whenever we renovate our units, I’m always looking for a way to make people feel like they’re sitting in a really nice house in the mountains of Mexico. The colors, decorations and music are there to make everyone feel comfortable. Next comes customer service. “
When it comes to customers, Sanchez’s philosophy is simple: he and his team are here to serve. “This is the culture we have,” he says. “You’re doing me a disservice by coming in.” I am here to serve you. I think if we all had that attitude about what we do, not just in the restaurant industry but in general, things would be better.
Andy Cook, Catering Consultant with Harborstone Foods, asserts that ethics distinguish Sanchez and its restaurants. “There is a difference between service and hospitality,” he notes. “Hospitality goes above and beyond to provide people with an experience. Jose and his team put more emphasis on this experience.
By the time the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, the Sanchez family had already weathered the 2008 recession and the usual economic challenges of running a restaurant chain. This time it was different. “I’ve never experienced anything like it,” Sanchez says. “Usually, if I have my savings, I can take the stress for a year and it’s not that bad. But March was something else.
With no end in sight and no possibility of opening any of his restaurants, Sanchez reached out to his staff and let them know that if they wanted to work, he would find a way to do it. Instead of serving food, employees answered the phone and sent out nearly $ 3,000 a day in take out orders. The whole team was able to stay employed and win throughout the pandemic, a testament to the Sanchez family’s commitment to their people.
This achievement, at a time when millions of employees are leaving the industry every month, speaks volumes. It may also indicate the direction restaurateurs will need to take in the future if they are to be sustainable. Working conditions matter more than ever and anyone like the Sanchez family is committed to creating an exceptional work environment will be light years ahead of their competition.
“They impress me as people who really connect with their values,” Cook says. “It’s all about family, community and heritage. You can see these values expressed through the way they treat their staff and their customers. “
Learn more by visiting the Mayan Mexican Restaurant Website or visit in person.