Three months doesn't sound like very long to develop and open a new restaurant, but for Maíz Mexican Cantina
General Manager Jason Branham, the time between sitting down with building owner Demos Panos in November and opening the Washtenaw Avenue location in January was intense.
"We put a lot of time and thought into it," says Branham. "It was difficult because a lot of people are saying that doesn't look Mexican. I want a place where people can bring their family to, but they can also have a nice date."
The classy-meets-affordable Mexican restaurant came about after Branham's market research told him it was exactly what the area needed.
"We looked at the demographics around here and found a large Hispanic community within a mile around us," he says. "Also, Don Carlos used to be located across the street, and it was recently mentioned as one of the most missed restaurants."
So far, that information seems to be proving to be true. Branham says the biggest problem the 220-seat restaurant has had since opening January 21 is being too busy. Maíz opened with 26 employees, and Branham is already making plans to hire more.
In addition to meeting demand, Branham says integral to the restaurant's business plan is providing fresh, local food at an affordable price.
"Mexican has a lower food cost compared to a lot of different cuisine," says Branham. "So, from a business standpoint, that was appealing, but that doesn't mean we can't put out great food. 'Fresh, from scratch food for under $10' is the mantra."
While Branham says they are currently not utilizing their freezer much at all, he's looking forward the spring and summer to have access to more local produce to serve, as well as freeze for use year round.
Source: Jason Branham, Maíz Mexican Cantina
As the largest Washtenaw Avenue establishment with a full bar between US-23 and Eastern Michigan University
, Branham also hopes to attract nightlife patrons to Maíz.
: Natalie Burg, Development News Editor