Chef Rene Marichal, owner of Bacoa, Finca & Fogón and Argento restaurants, took his eateries in Juncos and Guaynabo, respectively, to new heights when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, experiencing a peak in his 15-year career.
Still, Marichal struggled to keep his restaurants going and retain his 100 employees. And thanks to the federal incentives and loans he received, he was able to.
Though a combination of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, small business loans, and the agency’s Restaurant Revitalization funding program helped, he was still forced to shutter Avocado, a third restaurant he owned in the San Patricio area in Guaynabo.
“Argento, being an Argentine food concept, used to share a kitchen with Avocado, a creative local food restaurant. During the pandemic, it was difficult for us to have two restaurants, operating at a minimum capacity,” said Marichal.
“We decided to combine the two restaurants into a single kitchen and the one that prevailed was Argento’s. Nowadays, Avocado is an activity room for Argento,” he said.
His latest restaurant, which he has run for two years — Bacoa Finca & Fogón — is a two-story mansion set on a 3.5-acre farm in Juncos that focuses on Puerto Rico’s culinary heritage. The operation required an investment of some $250,000, and it also runs its own agricultural project.
According to the seasons, the establishment alternates its crops to supply the restaurant. They harvest papayas, cabbage, cucumbers, different herbs, among others. They also have fruit trees such as guava, soursop, avocado, lemon, and others.
Most recently, Bacoa added a terrace bar through an investment of between $10,000 and $15,000 that offers outside seating.
Marichal’s professional career — and success — began in 2007 with his first venture, The Fresh Grill. He later evolved to own two food trucks that he then sold. Aside from Argento and Bacoa, he said he has other projects in the works, such as an Asian food eatery.
While he develops recipes for his restaurants, his work now is mostly administrative, he said.
When advising future business owners, he stands his ground on the importance of “passion in what you do.”
“The first advice and most important thing is that you have to have a passion for whatever business you are developing, not necessarily a restaurant. When you do things with passion, you get good results. I tell you that, for me, the day I started working my first business, I stopped ‘working,’ and simply started a different lifestyle,” said Marichal.