Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Jun 1, 2020

If you want to be swept away in a story about resilience, reinvention and catching dreams, this episode is for you. Then combine it with compelling advice from three experts, Robert CarterChris Barrett and Duke McKenzie on how to engage the head, heart and wallets of customers. It is appointment listening for anyone wanting a post-COVID comeback.

Ernesto Gomez is a first-generation Canadian who fell in love with food watching and then helping his mother and grandmother prepare meals in their Mexico kitchen. Curiosity led him to explore Chinese and Italian food and when he was old enough, travel the world, feeding his mind with possibilities. Ernesto returns to Mexico and opens a restaurant and attends the school of hard knocks. After five years with his knapsack packed with experience, he goes off on another exploration and returns to Vancouver, where his family has immigrated. Bored and restless he wanders into Nuba restaurant and meets Victor and then, well, I won’t spoil that part of the story.

What Ernesto and Victor build in terms of restaurants, formats, culture and community is a case study in entrepreneurship. Armed with a war chest, they set their sights on a new location in Spain and then COVID-19 attacks in more ways than one. They have to shut down their restaurants, and Ernesto catches the virus. For anyone thinking this is a common flu pay attention to how Ernesto, strong and healthy has to fight for every breath and during that time, fight to keep their dream alive and jobs for his employees.

Small Business Matters series, presented by RBC.

Ernesto turns a passion into a career (1:06)
Hunting deer with his father, cooking with his grandmother and his early passion for cooking supported by his mother, Ernesto “cooks from the heart”. Receiving culinary training in Europe, Ernesto, turns his hobby into a career and learns the business in the school of hard knocks! However he needs more and enters a postgraduate program at Cornell. After graduating, Ernesto travels the world exploring the foods of Japan, France, Middle East and Spain, returning to Mexico to focus on stadium and arena food.

Success in Vancouver (05:06)
Following his parents to Vancouver, Canada, a chance meeting sets Ernesto on a path to success. He sells his business in Mexico, and together with his new-found partner, Victor, reinvigorates an existing restaurant, Nuba. From these humble beginnings, they go on to establish 2 different concepts and expand to create a 100 seater flagship restaurant and another focusing on kids. Off the back of this success, Ernesto, travels to Spain to open a new restaurant but returns to Vancouver with an unwelcome guest, the Coronavirus.

Ernesto recovers from the Coronavirus and pivots the business (08:33)
For 12 days Ernesto, is flat on his back, taken down by the Coronavirus and so has his business. To survive they cut salaries, cancel partner dividends, reduce working hours and lay off staff. But that’s not enough. Popular delivery platforms are eating away at their meagre profits. Something has to change. With the money that would have been spent on their expansion into Spain, they decide to build their own, bespoke food delivery service but don’t stop there. They also create their own meal kits.

The path to growth - the experts plot a way forward for Ernesto (13:42)
Customers are going to be wary about coming back to restaurants. Robert Carter, managing partner of Stratton Hunter Group suggests a strong focus on building trust from a sanitation standpoint. Duke McKenzie, CEO, re6l  advises Ernesto to continue to tell his story, but much more frequently - he has all the right ingredients for authentic stories. Chris Barrett, CEO, Operatic Agency provides 3 key pieces of advice: knowing your audience, being visible to customers searching for food delivery and getting the story of “one location straight to your door service” out there - its a key differentiator.

I am encouraged by Ernesto - Tony’s final thoughts (25:00)Despite the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on the restaurant sector, I am encouraged having spoken to Ernesto. I am encouraged by his curiosity, his resilience and his determination to reinvent his business in the face of personal and professional adversity. Ernesto displays the fighting spirit this country needs and in Ernesto’s case, fortune has truly favoured the bold.

Links and References

Website -
Instagram - @nubatown
Twitter - @nubatown
Facebook -
Trip Advisor -
Inside Vancouver -

Chris Barrett, CEO at Operatic Agency -
Website -

Duke McKenzie, CEO at re6l -
Website -

Robert Carter, Managing Partner at The StratonHunter Group -
Website -

Follow Tony Chapman

Website -
Twitter -
Linkedin -
Instagram -
Facebook -