Interview with the founders of La Catrina

Anais, Michelle and Paul are the 3 siblings behind La Catrina, one of the most exciting food stand in Market 33 and certainly the most authentic Mexican concept in the whole Netherlands. La Catrina opened 4 years ago and already counts with stores in several locations across the Netherlands. Recently, another location was opened in Madrid and many more are to come. The sky is the limit for the 3 siblings!

We had the chance to talk with them. With this interview you can discover more about the story behind La Catrina, their plans for the future but also their views on the challenges of opening a new company in The Netherlands. Follow the interview bellow:

We know that you are a recent company in Amsterdam. “Born” at Market 33. Can you tell us a bit about the story behind the company?

Michelle – “It all started when my brother moved to the Netherlands, back in 2017. He was working at FoodHallen, in a Mexican food stand. Quickly he became the manager and realised that these types of concepts were growing extremely fast in the country. The owners were American and, although the business was structured, the food was not authentically from Mexico, therefore he saw an opportunity to create his own brand.We knew someone who was a regular customer of Market 33 and luckily, by that time, there was a free space for a new food stand. Paul and Calvin got in touch to present the business plan and try the food. Paul took the opportunity and Calvin loved the idea.”

How did the 3 siblings get together?

Anais – “In the beginning, I was still working remotely from Mexico, helping with the creation of the recipes until 2019 that I came to the Netherlands. Everything happened very quickly. I moved to Amsterdam 2 weeks before we opened the first food stand. Paul needed help to start “La Catrina”, and since I already had experience in hospitality, by managing and working in a kitchen, I was the perfect match.”

Michelle – “It happened naturally. In 2020, during the pandemic, I came to the Netherlands to spend what was supposed to be 2 weeks. It happened to be 3 months. It was an uncertain time and I stopped the work that I was doing in France. After this, nothing was stopping me anymore to move to Amsterdam. I also fell in love with my boyfriend here so it made my decision pretty clear (laughs). When the second location was opened, my siblings needed more help, especially in the marketing and brand department and that’s when I joined them officially in 2021.”

What does “success” mean to you and La Catrina?

Michelle – “For me, there are different levels of success. For us, “La Catrina”, means to be able to share the real culture of Mexico around the world. I would say that in the future it would mean that, we can turn “La Catrina” into a franchise company, with several locations in Europe. Regardless, I think we can already call it “success” since we are working together as a family. We are very close to each other and it’s a true privilege to share our professional life.”

Where do you see La Catrina in 5 years?

Paul – “We see La Catrina with more locations in The Netherlands and probably around Europe too. We want to create a brand that, in the long term, can be a franchise and grow everywhere in the world.”

Anais – “La Catrina will have at least 10 stores in the Netherlands and by that time, I believe that we can already franchise. I expect to start the franchising process in 5 years. Now we have a very solid team so I think that we have the right resources to do it. We stopped the plan for a while but now we can retake the project because we have the right resources.”

Michelle – “I believe that La Catrina will be present with several locations in the Netherlands and Europe. In order to be a franchise we need to reach a point where we can standardize all our processes. It does not only take money but also time. For example, Mcdonald’s has their own machines to pour the sauces or to make the burgers. This is extremely important in order to franchise La Catrina, not only to standardize the process but also to attract investors. I hope we can get there in 5 years, it will take a lot of work.”

What is the biggest challenge of managing a company?

Michelle – “Definitely there are 2 extremely important things for me: first, all the legal paperwork to handle (especially if it is not in your native language) but also managing people. Although we have an amazing team, we are humans, therefore sometimes our emotions get in the way to separate business from family.”

Paul – “The biggest challenge is managing and finding the right team to grow with. At this stage, the only way to follow the path we want is to have a team we can completely rely on.”

Anais – In my case, the biggest challenge is the fact that it is my company (laughs). It lives and breathes with you for the good but also for the bad. You never “rest” and leave it on the side. It’s part of your life. It’s not easy although it is very satisfying, I have to say.”

Which qualities do you look for while hiring new employees?

Anais – “Attitude, for sure. Your values have to coincide with the values of La Catrina. And honesty, your ability to work in a team. We value team workers. The service to the client is essential for us and for that, the attitude of the employee has to be the best.”

Michelle – “The person must understand the concept of La Catrina. We want people to grow with us. With the right desire and mindset. Also, attitude is essential. It is important to face problems with a smile on your face. We need people that treat our customers correctly since they are the most important thing to us. It’s more about attitude than kitchen skills because that you can learn.”

What do you love the most about the fact of creating and developing your own company?

Paul – “Probably what I like the most is the creative part, expanding the brand and creating something a bit different from the rest of the Mexican concepts in Europe for fast food.”

Michelle – “The freedom of expressing what you want to offer but also being able to portray our food in a true Mexican way. Another important point is the possibility of being your own boss and working as a family, in this case. Also, it is pretty rewarding when you hire people that admire you and feel that you treat them as a family by creating a safe environment.”

Anais – “Time is very important to me. Now I have more time for myself although, for the past 3 years, I didn’t have much time. I sacrifice that to reach where I am. I also love to cook (especially Mexican food) and in La Catrina, I can work directly on that.”

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