Celebrating its 30th anniversary, learn how this popular restaurant offers its patrons fresh, never frozen “cowboy grub” cuisine.
In 1986, Skip Slayton and his brother were two young entrepreneurs in the wholesale and retail meat business. After much conversation, these two Bakersfield locals decided to change their career paths and focused their sites on the restaurant business.
“After selling meat to local restaurants for a while, we both realized there was much more profit on the restaurant side of things,” said Skip. “Thankfully for us, starting a business back then was much easier than it is now. There truly is so much you need to know before jumping into restaurant ownership. My biggest piece of advice – find a mentor. Someone who can help you from the very early stages, including how to draft a successful business plan.”
Their business plan was to start something that had never been done in their area before. Hence Jake’s Tex-Mex Café was born – a one-of-kind, fast casual restaurant designed for their patrons to have a relaxed and tasty meal. “Unlike most cafeteria-style joints, our customers order straight off the menu and our friendly staff prepares their food while they’re in line,” said Skip. “Our food is always fresh and made on premises daily. This is something we are very proud of! There are no pre-packaged or frozen foods used, and we think it shows in the quality of food we prepare. We don’t even own a freezer!”
As many restaurateurs are learning, there is a growing demand for fresh, quality ingredients and a transparency in how a customer’s food is prepared. “Our customers really enjoy watching their orders being prepared right in front of their eyes. It’s a real benefit for us,” said Skip.
A family affair
Skip is the first to admit that the ongoing success of Jake’s isn’t all thanks to him. It’s a true family affair. “My daughter, Sarah, who is now co-owner, was born a natural leader,” said Skip with a laugh. “Almost everyone will attest that she is tougher than me, after all, she has been a part of our restaurant since she was eight years old, so she knows our business very well!”
Sarah’s strong work ethic has helped her family continue to grow their business tremendously. She works closely with their staff of almost 40 people, to create new, innovative recipes. “We do a lot of research on recipes that work, and then refine them to make them our own,” she says. “The biggest satisfaction is when you hit on ‘that something special’ that someone orders over and over. Many of our return customers have created a trickle-down effect where they now bring in their kids, too – to see our restaurant serving generations is an amazing feeling. It’s brand loyalty at its best!”
One of the many “special” recipes served at Jake’s is their “Bakersfield famous” chocolate cake. “One of our employees, Linda, came up with the recipe in the 80’s,” said Sarah. “It’s truly reached an iconic status. Back in the day, all we could get were really dense, frozen cakes from our suppliers, so we decided to make it ourselves. Between Linda’s signature recipe and our current baker, our chocolate cake keeps our guests returning for more.” Today, Jake’s sells more than 160 sheet cakes a week!
Not only has Skip’s daughter Sarah played an integral role in the business, his wife, Betsy, has too. “When my wife and I were young, we decided to branch out and opened the catering side of our business,” said Skip. “We began as a full-service caterer, then after some time realized that business model wasn’t working. We needed more cooler space, more table space and more staff. This being said, we did see a nice profit from this side of the business, so we simply chose to downscale our efforts. Right now, most of our catering orders are dropped off and set up – that’s all. That makes it much less labor intensive.”
Social media success
Many business owners often wonder whether social media marketing efforts really work. For Jake’s, it certainly has. Sarah has a huge hand in using such online outlets to market their restaurant. “We’ve experienced many success stories, but one in particular stands out,” she said. “We had been working to create a delicious lemon cake for quite some time and finally figured out the recipe. Once we had it, I put it on our Facebook page, and it blew up! In less than a week, the cake was on the front page of the local newspaper. Where else do you get that exposure?”
As any business owner can attest, not having the supplies you need to run your business efficiently is a major problem – especially in the food business. “When a delivery is late or simply doesn’t show up at all, there’s a real problem as it literally effects everything we do,” said Skip. “Thankfully for us, Jordano’s has always been reliable. Jordano’s is extremely accessible, their drivers are first rate and mistakes are almost nonexistent. Our Account Executive, Robert Vargas, works closely with us to ensure deliveries are made on time.”
Sarah goes on to say, “What I love about Jordano’s is not only do they listen to your needs, but they deliver. A while back we needed a high-quality mayonnaise for our recipes. Robert and his team did a lot of research to find it for us, and even brought it in stock so it wasn’t a special order. Jordano’s simply goes above and beyond.”
For more information about Jake’s Tex-Mex Café, visit jakestexmex.com or find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.