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Check Out Abe Ruiz’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Abe Ruiz. Them and their team share their story with us below:

Abe created MADRID SPANISH TAVERNA during the most difficult time, the Covid-19 shutdown. He thought that if it were successful during that difficult time, it would work out anytime. MADRID SPANISH TAVERNA opened its first location in Roswell, GA, in May 2021 and has been busy since it unlocked its doors. Recently, it opened in Columbia, MD, and has received nothing but the best accolades for food, experience, and service. The main goal being that you felt just like you had traveled to Spain and back in 1-2 hours via music, environment, tastes, and energy!

MADRID SPANISH TAVERNA is being recognized this next Saturday by the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce with the Small Business of the Year Award.

Abe’s most recent projects before MADRID SPANISH TAVERNA include being the Lead Operations Consultant and Concept creator for Distrito T-Mobile, a $220 million entertainment and experiential complex in San Juan due to open in March 2021. This entertainment complex is modeled after Times Square and the US-based Live! Concepts will offer a multi-level experience for all Guests surrounded by eight (8) Locally created and Curated Food and Beverage concepts of which Abe was the lead since inception.

Previously, Abe was the Chief Executive Officer of two multi-unit concepts based in the Southeast (Babalu and Table 100). Abe joined the company in late 2017 and quickly positioned the Babalu brand in National Press, such as Nation’s Restaurant News and Restaurant Business Online. He was also recognized as one of the Top 50 Hispanic Businesspeople in Atlanta.

Abe served as Chief Operating Officer of Famous Dave’s of America and assumed responsibility for the company’s turnaround plan and operational activities. Abe was instrumental in overseeing corporate and franchised units, with 187 units spreading from the UAE to Canada and Puerto Rico. He also led key initiatives to enhance Famous Dave’s of America’s operational expertise and day to day execution. After joining the corporate side of Famous Dave’s of America, Abe and his team were instrumental in reinvigorating the Famous Dave’s of America business performance through a series of brand reinvention and operational platforms as well as an enhanced focus on a cohesive brand voice and experience across every customer touch point.

From 2011 to 2015, Abe was the COO for Colon Gerena Restaurant Group, a franchisee of Famous Dave’s of America, Applebee’s, Longhorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Sizzler, and Wendy’s. Under his tenure, Applebee’s and Famous Dave’s established all-time sales records and records for unit openings while maintaining operational excellence, market presence, and high guest satisfaction scores, earning recognition and awards from the franchisors. Reporting directly to the CEO, Abe was also part of the Board of Directors and made strategic and operational recommendations on all the company concepts.

A strong fine dining background is present, having led the growth of IL Mulino NYC, where he last served as Vice President of Marketing and Operations. Heading up a concept of fine dining units that was constantly voted the top Italian dining destination in NYC for 27 years. Every detail of Operations and Development was under Abe’s direction, from the Award-Winning Wine List selection to the Marketing and Operational strategy of different markets where IL Mulino operated.

Abe was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. He completed High School in McLean, Virginia, and was picked to play collegiate golf for Virginia Tech, enabling him to compete head to head with the Pre-Medical School that placed him on a waiting list, UVA. Twice beating UVA as a Virginia Tech golf player, he soon recognized his passion for the Hospitality and Restaurant Industry and realized he would not be the next Jack Nicklaus but could be the next Norman Brinker or Phil Romano. Thus, his attention was directed toward accepting being a mediocre (but extremely competitive) golfer and a student and passionate disciple and leader of the Food and Beverage Industry. He dedicates his free time to many charitable organizations and his family. He is a proud and engaged dad, a great cook, a slow dishwasher, a great people and team developer and leader, a mediocre golfer, and an avid sports fan.

Can you talk to us about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Not! The restaurant industry is by and far the most difficult industry in the world! Two of the most variable things make it the most challenging: food and people. The perception of ‘good food’ can vary so much from person to person, and the consistency of people daily can vary. This makes it challenging to manage. However, it is the absolute best industry in the world.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
I love the business side of the restaurant industry, seeing how a concept comes together and then seeing how it is accepted or not accepted by its customers, both internal and external. It is super exciting to create branding, menus, decor, and how it all comes together. Then, taking care of the customers and seeing their reactions is where the most satisfying part is. What sets me apart from others is that I can be on the business side of the equation, in the boardrooms, etc., but I can also run and manage a door and a floor with the best of them.

So, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you before we go? How can they support you?
People must be passionate, driven, and willing to reach and exceed their maximum potential. I am always connected to my staff and guests on a daily basis, so always available!

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