“I always knew I’d be on my own somehow,” said Debbie Roxarzade, founder and CEO of the Las Vegas restaurant, Rachel’s Kitchen.
Having begun her career in Los Angeles and working her way toward opening up a small coffee shop, Roxarzade always had a bigger vision in mind. Today, her Las Vegas eatery, named after her daughter, Rachel, is a franchise with eight locations and growing and even though Roxardzade’s goal was always to have her own business, despite her love for cooking, restaurateur wasn’t what she had in mind.
“I always knew that I wanted my own business but the culinary portion of it kind of just grew and developed with me,” explained Roxarzade. “I started with a small coffee shop and in that coffee shop, it was kind of in the 90s world, when Starbucks was very popular, and I had this quaint little coffee shop that I opened and it was very cute, and it had some snacks and muffins and bagels and people started asking for food, so I developed some sandwiches, a few salads … and it just grew from there. It just continued and continued and the next location was much more food and much less coffee and it pretty much grew into what it is today.”
That small coffee shop turned into seven different restaurants in the LA area in the mid-1990s, early 2000s but with the birth of her first child in 2004, her daughter Rachel, Roxarzade and her husband realized they didn’t want to stay in LA. After visiting friends in Las Vegas, they found themselves liking the “smaller, quieter world” that existed on the outskirts of town. It took a couple of years and the sale of all seven restaurants, but eventually, Roxarzade and her new family made the move to Vegas.
Not wasting any time, Roxarzade quickly found a small location perfect for a little café she would name Rachel’s Kitchen. It was a 1000 square foot building in the middle of an affluent area in Las Vegas where she served wholesome, yet indulgent food, fresh juices and organic options.
“The first couple of months I had very mixed reviews. People would walk in and look at it and go, ‘you’re nuts’,” Roxarzade remembered. “Then we would have other people that would walk in and go ‘oh my gosh, this is so refreshing’ so within six months it started to take and start doing very, very well.”
Once her business took off, it was apparent to Roxarzade that she was running out of space and needed to size up. At the time though, she was pregnant with her second child and found herself wanting to expand her business but to also be a mom and raise her children without the constant need to be away. It was at this point that someone suggested franchising her concept of Rachel’s Kitchen.
“I spent about a good year learning about franchising because I really had no idea,” Roxarzade said. “So I asked around, I read books, I went to a few conventions to really learn the ins and outs of franchising … and then the economy just completely tanked.”
“So here I am having invested quite a bit of money in something and then looking at it like, well that was just bad timing! So I kind of just sat there with it and I figured, well at some point it will be better,” Roxarzade added with a laugh.
Maintaining her positivity and determination to wait it out, after about two years Roxarzade finally was able to get the franchise going, taking a chance on her first partnership with a young guy she said had “good energy” and made her feel like despite the risky time, was worth going all in on. Her risk paid off and while it may all be due to her talents as a business owner and her entrepreneurial spirit, it seems what really is behind Roxarzade’s success is the Rachel’s Kitchen business model.
“Even though we’re no longer the shiny new object in town, we’re just a very good local, stable brand that is consistent and we’re all about the customer experience and making sure our guests are happy from the minute they walk in the door to the minute they leave,” said Roxarzade.
Focusing largely on her community, Roxarzade and Rachel’s Kitchen do a lot to give back. Whether it’s to local food banks or community school charities and fundraisers, Roxarzade is determined to give back as much as she can.
“It’s such a good, rewarding feeling,” said Roxarzade. “At the end of the day I think that’s really what matters. Of course we’re all in business to make money and succeed and do all of that and I think you can do it in so many ways that you can go home just feeling like you made a difference and I think that resonates with our customers, with our employees and everyone around us.”
And since community involvement is such a huge part of what makes the Rachel’s Kitchens restaurants thrive, Roxarzade’s goal is to ensure that all franchises follow suit with that sentiment.
“The initial challenge is just going to be finding the right team,” Roxarzade said. “Once you’ve got a good team in place and you all know that you work together well and there’s that trust factor then I think it makes it a lot easier to scale and be able to do that. But initially it’s going to be the operations team that’s going to be in place and I think our biggest challenge is to make sure they’re trained correctly, how we want them to be trained and what we expect.”
“We also have a really great team out here in Vegas that has a lot of growth potential that would be out there, helping hold hands with whoever it is that is opening more locations so nobody would ever be out on their own,” Roxarzade said.
So what’s in store for 2018? Expect more Rachel’s Kitchens outside of Nevada in the coming months and years.
“So the plan is to open several franchises in 2018. That is the goal and that is what it will be,” declared Roxarzade, without a doubt in her mind.