ORLANDO, Florida – Vinay Rama – the CEO of Mandala Holdings, which owns Fresh Mexican Grilled Lime – worked all his life in the service sector.
“In fact, frankly, I started my career when I was born in the sense that my father owned a motel in Antioch, Tennessee,” Rama said. “It was a Best Western. Obviously, I was too young at the time. But when I was 5 or 6, I was making beds, putting on shower curtains, and filling the motel’s coke machines.
After years of working in his family’s motel, and even living there for a while, Rama’s parents sent him to live in India.
“I was sent to India when I was 12. They put me on a plane in Atlanta with a teddy bear and 48 hours later I was in India at this boarding school,” he said. -he declares.
It was there that he got his first paid job, again working as a hotel cleaner.
“My first paid job was at (16 years old) in India, and I think it was around 800 rupees per week, which equates to $ 16 per week. Obviously, relatively, it was pretty good, ”he said.
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For Rama, the best part of this new work experience was working with people who did not share his life experiences.
“I worked with people who had never slept on a bed, or had never had a chair in their house. So arranging a chair or making a bed was a training process that was much more amplified than training someone in the United States who might be low income, but at least they know what a bed is, ”he said. he declared.
This allowed him to learn how to explain customer expectations to the people he worked with, a skill that would come in handy when training future employees.
After leaving India, Rama returned to the United States to continue his studies.
“I went to school, trained in hotel management and real estate finance at Cornell for four years, then joined an investment bank,” said Rama. “And that’s when I received a sophisticated capital education.”
With this new training under his belt, Rama launched Mandala Holdings, a hotel investment platform that operates hotels and motels across Florida.
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His business acumen then led a friend to approach him to buy Lime Fresh Mexican Grill.
“A friend of mine called me in 2017. And said … ‘I’m in Arts and Sciences, you’re at the hotel, you better evaluate this deal than me'”, Rama said. “I’m like, ‘I don’t know, the restaurants as well. I mean, I have an ecosystem of people I know who know, restaurants, but I’m in hardcore hotels. ‘”
The channel was launched in Miami and eventually bought out by Ruby Tuesdays. Lime Fresh has experienced rapid expansion and an equally rapid contraction in its business.
“I looked at it, I said, ‘It’s pretty good. I mean, he’s a quick, laid-back Mexican (restaurant). It is little. And what piqued my interest were, frankly, the numbers, ”said Rama.
He was happy with the opportunity and decided to take a bite. Finally, he even bought his partners in order to have more control over the brand.
“Again, (being) an opportunist has led me to do this and move forward quickly until today – I’m very happy that we made the deal,” Rama said.
He is now looking forward to opening two more Lime Fresh restaurants over the next year and continuing to grow the brand as a whole. It also focuses on the experience of its workers in its restaurants.
“Associate experience is the key to the game. You take care of your associates,” said Rama.
In the latest episode of Florida Foodie, Rama recounts how he became an “accidental restaurateur”. He also shares more about his plans for the future of Lime Fresh Mexican Grill.
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Florida Foodie is a bimonthly podcast from WKMG and Graham Media that takes a closer look at what we eat, how we eat it, and the impact it has on us here in Florida and for everyone, everywhere. Find new episodes on Apple podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you download your favorite podcasts.
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