Mexico City – the Vapiano experience 2300 m above sea level

There are already four Vapiano restaurants in Mexico City with a fifth due for completion at the end of the year. What’s the secret of their success? Our Country Manager in Mexico explains what makes Vapiano so popular, plus what else he’s planning for the bustling city of 8.8 million.

Daniel Askenazi is our Mexican franchise partner. He’s been part of the Vapiano team since April 2011. One of his jobs is to promote the brand in Mexico and improve internal processes. “My suggestions are known for causing a ruckus at our Vapiano HQ, it’s hilarious!” he jokes in our interview about the highlights of his job.

Daniel, what is Vapiano’s biggest challenge in Mexico City?
The whole culture is completely different to Germany, so everything needs to be altered or adapted. The hard part is retaining the Vapiano concept despite all the changes. I’m looking forward to opening another Vapiano restaurant outside Mexico City soon, but I’m sure that will bring its own unique challenges too.

You’ve just mentioned a fifth restaurant is set to open soon. What else do you have planned?  
Well, hopefully they’ll be a lot more than five Vapianos in the future. I plan to up the figure to at least seven restaurants by mid-2016. We’d like to open three or four new restaurants each year so keep your fingers crossed. Maybe we’ll surprise you with even more! From an operational point of view, I work hard to ensure our guests have the most satisfying experience when they visit.

How exactly can you achieve that? Are there any concrete plans?
Absolutely! We’re working on new technologies and processes to boost customer satisfaction levels even more. Shorter waiting times for example, so they can spend more time relaxing over their meal.

Well, let us know if you find a solution to that one! But Daniel, why do you think that Mexicans love Vapiano so much? What’s the secret of the brand’s success there?
The brand is unique yet also the same the world over. Our guests know what to expect. They love our fresh food, the atmosphere in our restaurants and the direct contact they have with our Vapianisti. The secret of our success is that these areas are always the same – no matter which country you’re in or what the cultural differences may be. I mean, the Germans love Vapiano so imagine how the highly emotional Mexicans feel about it!

Talking of emotional – are you particularly attached to any one of the restaurants?
That’s a tough question. They’re all special in their own way as we’ve poured so much love into each and every one. But if I had to choose, then I would go for the branch in the big Toreo Parque Central mall. It’s only a small place but I think it’s perfect. However, it’s also our newest restaurant so I will probably have changed my mind if you ask me next year! We’ll see! (Daniel chuckles at his indecision).

The locations you choose for the restaurants are always quite special, aren’t they? What makes them highlights in a town like Mexico City?
You’re right. Every one of our Vapiano restaurants has a very special location. Our oldest restaurant is located in Polanco, one of the oldest and most beautiful suburbs. The area has been whipped into shape over the last few years and is now a real hot spot. Our second restaurant is flanked by skyscrapers in the new business area. This quarter is characterised by some insane architecture and it’s favoured by a younger crowd. The third branch is the most central at the heart of the financial district on Paseo de la Reforma. As one of the city’s main traffic arteries, it has become somewhat of a landmark over the years. It was commissioned by Emperor Maximilian I and modelled after the Champs-Élysées in Paris. And I’ve already mentioned the fourth restaurant in the mall. Every one of them really has its own unique story.   

Daniel, you must know Mexico City inside out. What’s so special about it?
I was born and raised here and I’m incredibly proud of the place.  It’s fantastic, chaotic, cosmopolitan, fast-paced, vast and crazy – all at the same time!

A must-see city on any bucket list. What’s not to be missed?
A trip to the quarters Polanco, Condesma and Roma should feature on every itinerary. There are lots of charming little restaurants and cafes with a real European flair. Culture vultures should note that the entire Paseo de la Reforma and the historical city centre are also located here. The buildings from the Spanish colonial period are stunning, and Chapultepec Park is three times the size of New York’s Central Park. If you’re around that part of town, you should definitely visit Chapultepec Castle too. There’s so much to see here. Even though they’re a little out of town, you should definitely take the time to visit the ruins of Teotihuacán too.

When there’s so much to see, what’s your own personal favourite?
The area around Condesma and Roma. You can meander through the streets, stop for a coffee or to grab some food, and then spend a lazy afternoon in one of the many parks.

Any tips for those looking for action rather than relaxation? Bars, clubs?
Another good question! Things change quickly here and new locations are constantly popping up. If you’re in town, swing by or call me and I’ll give you a list. Or if you don’t fancy reaching for the phone, ask a taxi driver to drop you in Condesa. There’s something for everyone there.

Let’s talk about food. What do people eat here when tummies start to rumble?
Tacos, tacos and more tacos. I’m kidding! Mexico City has a huge range of culinary treats but there’s one in particular that everyone should try. You might spend the next day constantly running to the toilet but it’s worth it. And after a while the body learns to cope. At some point, every visitor to Mexico City should pop into one of the small taco shops and sample an “Arroz con Mole”! (Roughly translated: rice with mole. Yes, mole. We promise Daniel doesn’t mean that literally.)

Another must-do to add to our list! Thanks for taking the time to chatting to us and showing us the fun side of your hometown Daniel! 

Kim, Public Relations