Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Gabe Ceniceros. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Alright, Gabe thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. Risk taking is something we’re really interested in and we’d love to hear the story of a risk you’ve taken.
The Blacktop Grill (Brick and Mortar) was open for business on November 14th, 2020 in the middle of a global pandemic. Crazy, I know. I heard it from many people who told me I was crazy for making such a move during such a crazy time. It was also all over the news about restaurants closing their doors left and right due to the circumstances. We were originally supposed to sign our lease in March of 2020. At that time signs of Covid were starting to skyrocket and people were raiding the stores for toilet paper. It was out of control. Why did people’s survival instincts turn to toilet paper? I’ll never know!
We were forced to hold off on signing our lease and wait to see where this pandemic would direct our lives. After much due diligence, we signed our new lease in July 2020, only 4 months later, and opened our doors in November of 2020.
We have now been open for 1 year and 6 months and still working hard to build a reputation with a larger demographic. We are still going strong as our second-year anniversary nears.
What helped my decision to move forward?
First, I know the news media survives by instilling fear. I am very aware of this. I decided to do my own digging and not allow the media to instill fear in me. Yes, it was a crazy time but after much investigating, my now neighboring restaurant friends/owners mentioned they were still killing it with to-go orders. Also, my now accountant who has a number of restaurants under his belt mentioned that those restaurants were hitting record-breaking numbers. Was I scared as hell? Absolutely but this gave me the boost of confidence to make the jump. To add, because no one was making moves to open restaurants during some of the worst months of Covid, I got a killer deal on rent along with other perks.
In retrospect, I was right about the media. Were there restaurants closing? yes but it was restaurants that were already struggling, in my experience, the pandemic helped put them over the edge.
Not once did you see the news reporting on restaurants that were making it work and thriving in the process but there was plenty of them as I came to find out.
Gabe , before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I’ve been in the service industry (restaurants) for well over 20 years. I left for a short time to seek “the job” and quickly realized there had to be more to life than sitting at a desk for the rest of my life. I hated it and knew I didn’t fit in there. I think sometimes that it’s painted out in our heads that our industry is not an admirable career though I think people are starting to figure out more and more that their career paths of choice weren’t necessarily the right one for them. What I loved most about the restaurant business was the flexibility and the money you can make in such a short time as a waiter that still allows you to pursue other things with the extra time.
I loved that about restaurants but did not like working for other people. In 2014 I bought a crappy hotdog cart and decided to build something of my own.
It’s crazy to look back to see how far I’ve come in such a short time. 8 years to be exact. 8 years straight hustle, so don’t get it twisted and think that it all just fell in my lap. The original plan was not a restaurant or any of its accolades, it was to walk away from the man and be my own boss. I still remember the day I was able to walk away. It took two years and I’ll never forget the nervousness, disbelief, and excitement of that day.
I wasn’t a chef in any of my prior restaurants but the long history in the restaurant business gave me an appreciation and understanding of food and also a knowledge of the combinations that make sense for a tasty meal.
The Blacktop Grill specializes in gourmet comfort food. Our menu consists of decadent gourmet hotdogs, quesadillas, and an overall menu that we describe as a Sonoran with a twist experience. We take authentic meals, and flavors and combine them to make a unique and exciting culinary experience.
As food lovers, we personally look for “the stops”, the go-to locally-owned restaurants in every city we visit. We seek those standouts, the fun, the different, the delicious. Those are options that only locals can recommend.
Our vision for The Blacktop Grill is to be just this for people, to create fun eats for food lovers wanting a place with fresh, different, and exciting food.
2018 Wurst Festival, Phoenix AZ
2018 Chili pepper festival, Phoenix, AZ
2019 Wurst Festival, Phoenix, AZ
As seen on:
On the menu live
Arizona Daily Star
Phoenix New Times
2019 Restaurant Guru
5 stars ratings :
Can you talk to us about how your side-hustle turned into something more.
This venture definitely started a side hustle. It just takes me back to the conversation about the flexibility a restaurant provides. I was working at The Cheesecake Factory when starting Blacktop Grill. At first, I would just go out Friday and Saturday evenings and serve food. Then I would dip into Thursdays and suddenly I started getting hired for catering and events looking for food. I quickly realized that there was more than enough work and that I could make a decent living in even less time than I would spend at the restaurant. Crazy right? When I did walk away from the man, the food cart was not getting in the way of The Cheesecake Factory, The Cheesecake Factory was getting in the way of my schedule and I knew then it was time to jump. If I have any advice to give it would be to start slowly. Leave the pressure of just quitting your job and losing that consistent income, but you’ve got to start and be prepared to replace your full-time job when it makes sense otherwise why are you doing it?
How’d you build such a strong reputation within your market?
One word comes to mind. Consistency. Consistency allowed me to figure out that I could make a decent income.
Consistency allowed me to perfect my processes.
Consistency allowed me to perfect my products/menu.
Consistency allowed time for my name to circulate through the marketplace and allow people to get to know what we do.
Consistency is what’s going to keep helping us get our reputation up to another level and in front of a larger demographic.
I have seen way too often people that try something for two weeks and run if they don’t see results or run when there is “too much work” involved.
You got a great idea but you got to give it time and energy.
Lay a brick every day and one day you’ll look up and have a brick wall.
- Website: https://www.theblacktopgrill.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theblacktopgrill/?hl=en
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theblacktopgrill
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-blacktop-grill-tucson-2?osq=blacktop
Foodiebee Media Mandy Rena Photography Arizona Daily Star