A spirited owner along with veteran staff have helped Rio Mambo exceed its expectations in the first two months of opening.
Owner Brent Johnson’s fourth Rio Mambo mexican restaurant location opened at the corner of South Main Street and Park in early November. Johnson says he’s usually pretty conservative when a new location starts ehen it comes to judging success but people have been coming since day one and have continued.
Johnson said he had wanted to have a location here for many months because of the small town vibe.
“We’ve served a lot of people from around the Fort Worth area, Mineral Wells and such for many years,” Johnson said. “This place really had a nice small town feel to it and was a lot more appealing for our family-style restaurants. When the location came available, we jumped on it.”
The renovation process began in June. Johnson said this is the first location that wasn’t a former restaurant to begin with so he was able to get the restaurant exactly as he wanted it.
“We were able to have the layout the way we wanted, which was really fulfilling,” Johnson said.
Rio Mambo is different in the eyes of its owner for a number of reasons. While the restaurant serves a number of traditional Tex-Mex items such as tacos, burritos and enchiladas, the “Chef Mex” style of cooking, which comes from veteran chefs’ cooking, enables the ingredients to stand out.
“We live it, breathe it, every day,” Johnson said. “One of the differences is our ingredients. We pick the freshest, vegetables, the freshest meat which our customers say they are able to taste. We love hearing they have eaten the best enchiladas they have ever had.”
Such items as Tacos a la Parilla, which allows the mixing and matching of the fillings with different handcrafted sauces, allow for a custom meal. Being able to mix and match on several specialty items allows customers to elevate the dining experience.
The second reason behind the difference is the employees. Many of Johnson’s 45 employees at the new location have worked with him at other restaurants and promoted from within.
“I estimate we had to hire between five and 15 percent of our employees from Weatherford from outside. The rest were already part of the family,” Johnson said. “My general manager there Robert Cervera started out waiting tables for me in Fort Worth. He jokes that he is still doing that as everyone does what they need to do to pitch in with me.”
Johnson likes having experienced staff and not having a revolving door of employees.
“These people are trying to raise family and I like to keep them around because my employees are family,” Johnson said.
New servers and staff undergo extensive training at another location before taking the floor, Johnson said, which allows them to be very knowledgeable to the customers and flow seamlessly into the restaurant.
Having the small town, family restaurant feel comes from Johnson’s wanting to be part of the community and he has developed an interesting way of doing so.
Johnson said several churches have asked him over the years for fundraising type items. The restaurant takes a unique approach by asking customers if they have a church bulletin on Sundays.
Ten percent of the bill then goes back to the church via gift cards to be used in whatever way they see fit.
“I got the idea of church giving through another restaurant I was working at back in the 70s,” Johnson said. “I decided if I ever had the opportunity to give back to the community I would do so.”
The restaurant has a lot of long-time customers but still has room for everyone. Johnson said he and his staff welcome new customers for a tryout.
Rio Mambo is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m Saturday. For information, call 817-598-5944.