How I Started a Thriving Restaurant in the Middle of Covid-19

In July 2020, Martin Luzanilla sold 10 plates of food out of his driveway. Just five months later, he officially opened the doors of Mexihanas Hibachi Grill in Long Beach, Calif. Prior to Covid-19, Luzanilla bred French bulldogs and worked as a tow truck driver for AAA. When less cars were on the road and work became slow, Luzanilla thought of the idea of opening a hibachi grill restaurant with a Mexican twist.

“We used to go eat at a local restaurant in another city and they would do meals like this. We just added our own seasonings to it because we felt that that food had no flavor and we ran with it…it took off overnight,” said Luzanilla.

Originally, Luzanilla advertised his food on the Instagram page for his dog breeding, but eventually he couldn’t keep up with the demand. After operating out of small kitchens for a few months, he eventually looked to open a brick and mortar location.

“The customers and the support was so overwhelming that we had to find a location to keep our food fresh,” said Luzanilla.

Although their food was an instant hit, Luzanilla’s only experience in foodservice before Mexihanas was working at a Subway in junior high. He has his mother and grandfather to thank for inspiring the food his customers love.

“We use [my grandfather’s] recipe and how he used to do everything, so those are the type of flavors that I ran with. I’ve always liked that flavor as a kid and I kept that flavor when I opened this place,” said Luzanilla.

When it came to buying supplies for Mexihanas, Luzanilla had to navigate a completely new territory.

“We had opened up our restaurant and it was our first restaurant, so we really didn’t know what to do or what we needed. I had seen the Cambro product name on some of the containers that we would use and one day I was working and my brother was driving out on the road…and he passed by this yard sale in Lakewood, Calif., that had these [Cambro] warmers for sale,” said Luzanilla.

A man had lost his restaurant and was selling a Cambro UPC400 and a Cam GoBox EPP400.

“We bought those warmers and they’ve been our best friends. We own three of the GoBoxes now,” said Luzanilla.

After getting their first two Cambro hot boxes at the yard sale, Luzanilla purchased two more GoBoxes to help with delivery and catering. 

“We used the GoBoxes to do a party in Bakersfield, Calif., which is maybe a nice two and a half hour drive from us. Thank God and thank Cambro that it was hot when we got there. We didn’t have to do anything, everything was amazing,” said Luzanilla.

“It’s an amazing product, I love it. I’ve delivered food four hours away from my restaurant and we’ve gotten the food there piping hot, where the customers can’t even hold the meat with their fingers because it’s so hot.” 

Not only does Mexihanas use Cambro hot boxes during transport, but they also use them right in the restaurant.

“Your food doesn’t sit on a counter, it doesn’t sit under a heat light or anything like that, it goes right into a warmer until you’re ready to come pick it up,” said Luzanilla. After less than a year in business, Luzanilla is thrilled to open his second Mexihanas location in Long Beach in October 2021.


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