We catch up with the team at a new Guzman y Gomez restaurant in Sydney to hear what goes into a new restaurant - plus, how they navigate the controlled chaos of the first day of service.
For Etan Vissel and Ana Capraru, the opportunity to open Guzman y Gomez’s (GYG) new restaurant at Five Dock in Sydney was the culmination of years of hard work and training with the business. Their story of progression is one of dozens across the brand, and both members of the new restaurant management duo say it’s a hard-earned opportunity.
“The support I’ve had from everyone at GYG to help me grow into the position of restaurant manager and help open Five Dock has been amazing and I’m super grateful for that,” Vissel says.
Vissel’s pathway began when he was 18 and joined the team at GYG as a line cook. From there, he progressed into a shift leader position, assistant restaurant manager and a restaurant manager. He’s now running GYG Five Dock as the restaurant’s General Manager – a testament both to himself and the progression opportunities at GYG.
He’s not doing it alone though. Vissel runs GYG Five Dock with Ana Capraru, who joined GYG as a restaurant manager and has since worked as a multi-site general manager and recently as a Culinary and Operations coach, where she helped train Vissel for the new position. Now, the pair runs the restaurant together.
“The most rewarding things about opening the new restaurant are building teams, seeing people develop and working shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone. That's what motivates me on a daily basis,” Capraru says. “Building our chemistry as a team is really exciting, and there’s a great energy about that in a new venue.”
The process for opening a new GYG restaurant is detailed and involves both restaurant crew and support office staff. A location can be chosen a year out from opening date, with several months of building to follow. While the bricks and mortar are being put together, so is the restaurant’s new team. The Five Dock crew was made up of new recruits, talented existing team members from other restaurants (such as Vissel) and with Capraru shifting from support office into a hands-on role.
“We had team members training in other GYG restaurants throughout the opening process, and I’d be in touch with them to see how they’re going and make sure they’re skilled enough to work independently in a new venue,” Vissel says. “Having the existing network of restaurants was great because it meant everyone hit the ground running at Five Dock when we opened.”
Capraru says her time managing restaurants in the past meant she was well-placed to step back into a venue-focused position.
“Obviously having that experience in restaurants really helped, but my training at GYG as a Culinary Operations Coach was what really prepared me for this – that’s where I learned how to build a great team that I can trust, delegate to and push to be the best versions of themselves.”
Once the training is over, the restaurant fit-out is complete and the new team has been briefed, it’s time for the organised chaos of opening day. There’s always a heap of excitement around these, and the first service at a new GYG restaurant is a massive operation.
On opening day, GYG restaurants offer $5 burritos all day – and with the entire crew on board (and some extra hands from support office), the Five Dock team sold more than 4500 during service. Despite the scale of the operation, everything is prepared and served fresh, as is the standard on any day at any GYG restaurant.
“I think one of the most remarkable things about it is the behind-the-scenes prep that people don’t see,” Vissel says. “Obviously it’s amazing that we can serve that many meals in one day, but we still prepare everything fresh that same day – the cooks were in from 5am slicing avocado, onion and tomatoes. Everything is done fresh.”
GYG Five Dock opened from 7am until 10pm. At the end of every opening day GYG celebrates the final burrito, this is always saved for the new restaurant manager or franchisee, which meant it was Vissel’s turn this time around.
“I was thinking about that moment the whole day. I’ve seen other managers and franchisees do it on social media and it looks like such a great moment, so I've always wanted to do that myself,” he says. “To finally get that moment to do that myself was super rewarding, not only at the end of the day but in the context of my career with GYG.”
“It’s such an exciting moment in the day where we all get to celebrate together and unwind,” Capraru says. “I trained Etan earlier in his career, so seeing him make that final burrito was a cool moment for both of us.”
Now with the restaurant open and running, the focus turns to delivering a fresh experience for guests every day. With Vissel and Capraru both primed to excel in their challenging new roles, we’re looking forward to seeing them flourish.
“I fell in love with the rush of hospitality from a young age, it’s very close to my heart,” Vissel says. “Getting to work with everyone on the team through to the delivery drivers and people in support office positions and now getting to run a restaurant as my own business alongside Ana is awesome – a bit of a full-circle moment for both of us.”
This article was produced by Scout Jobs in partnership with Guzman y Gomez.
Photography: Yusuke Oba