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BEST IN FRANCE. Mexi and Co Claire ABASTADO Céline MAIRET Thomas MORIN Guillaume ROUX.

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best in france


Mexi and Co



Thomas MORIN

Guillaume ROUX


When we met Alvaro Lemis, a Colombian businessman, we thought that his 15 years of experience in France would much more interesting for the Best in Case study than a huge impersonal international firm… That is why we are going to present to you the study of a small unknown firm.

the mexi co company
The Mexi & Co. Company
  • Created in 1992 in Paris by a Colombian businessman : Alvaro Lemis
  • At the beginning : company created to distribute food products from South America in France, in parallel of two others Lemis’ companies : Beto and Bravo, for production of chips (“tortillas”) and distribution of Corona beer
  • 2000 : Bankrupt… Alvaro Lemis decides to keep only one company, Mexi & Co.
  • He buys 4 restaurants in Paris and suburb, organizes salsa concerts and produces Y. Buenaventura, a famous Colombian singer
  • Today : the value of the 4 restaurants is estimated at 1 000 000 €, the company is a success !
alvaro lemis
Alvaro Lemis
  • Alvaro was born in England, moved to Colombia at one year old and to Equator at eleven. He studied in the United States a master of Business and Politic Science.
  • He worked two years in a bank in New York and then tried to start a business of hospital and hostel waste reprocessing. But it was very difficult for a Colombian in the United States to find the founding necessary, so he gave up.
  • He then decided to start over in France. First he began organizing “Latino Party” in bars and night clubs in Paris, then he invested in a former “rillette” factory and created his own company of distribution and production of Mexican and south American products: Beto & Bravo.
  • In 1992, he started the distribution of Corona in France. He then became bigger and bigger : he bought new machines started new business…But he didn't handle his growth and he had important cash flow problems.
  • This lead him to bankruptcy : he had to sell everything and he was courted by the trade tribunal.
  • It took him 6 years to recover, but he then started his current new business of Latin American restaurants.
why he came in france
Why he came in France ?
  • The decision to come in France hasn’t been really a choice : it has been more an opportunity.
    • First of all, he came in France for the French quality of live, and for Paris : the monuments, the culture, the peoples…
    • After his experience in the US and particularly in New York where it was difficult for a Colombian to succeed, he wanted to work and live in a country where everything is possible even for a Colombian !
    • Then, he knew that the Latino' spirit was very appreciated in France and particularly in Paris so there were good opportunities in this country.
the original products tortillas and corona
The original products : Tortillas and Corona
  • The tortillas (Mexican Chips) used to be produced in a factory in the 19th district of Paris
  • Then the factory moved in Aulnay-sous-Bois, in the suburbs ; new machines were bought
  • At the same time Alvaro Lemis was contacted by the Corona producers to distribute the beer in France
  • Huge success for the Corona : growth of 80% to 100% per year
  • But for beer distribution : necessity to have important amount of stocks
  • The distribution of Corona becomes a financial problem, and the production of chips needs investments to develop…
  • The huge volumes lead to bankrupt : the Beto and Bravo companies have been victims of their success
the actual business the restaurants
The actual business : the restaurants
  • One restaurant in Saint-Germain des Prés (« 1492 »), two restaurants in Rue Saint-Jacques, Saint-Michel (« El Sol e la Luna »), one restaurant in Juvisy
  • About 40 people are working for all of them, most of them are coming from South America
  • Low-budget restaurants
  • Latino’s food and atmosphere (decoration, music)
  • Big success : they are quoted in famous guides (Routard, Petit Futé, Gault & Millau)
the clients relation
The clients relation
  • Alvaro thinks there is a kind of deal between him and his clients: he offers them a nice place to relax in a authentic Latino atmosphere, with mostly Columbian or Mexican waiters and waitresses, at a very reasonable price ( most plates are less then ten euros) in regard to the places where the restaurants are located : for example the restaurant “1492”is situated in St Germain, in the center of Paris.
  • In exchange, clients have to accept the fact that the service is not always perfect, like in a very “chic” French restaurant. Sometimes, you have to wait a little to have your plate ready and some waiters do not speak perfect French but it is part of the atmosphere.
the values of mexi and co
The values of Mexi and Co
  • One of the most important value of Mexi and Co is the Latino connection. Alvaro wants to help the Latin American arriving in France so he employs mainly Colombian or Mexican recently arrived. He also employs many Latin American students in exchange in France. He offers them a special 20 hours per week contract with the possibility to adapt their schedules depending on their exams dates.
  • An other value of this company is to provide the clients with authentic products from Latin America. In fact, a lot of product are imported from Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Chile…
  • The main goals of this company are neither to make profit nor to expand. Actually, the experience of bankruptcy is still in the mind of Alvaro and he does not want to start again the same mistakes, so, most of the benefit is reinvested in the restaurant to buy new equipment and materials.
  • Furthermore, after his first experience Alvaro learned to surround himself with the good persons to be able to delegate but he still have a lot of work with his four restaurants. Anyway, now, at 40 years old, his personal main value is to take the time to enjoy life…
the constraints in france
The constraints in France

As for Alvaro, the constraints in France are not so strong. However he sees two points :

  • First of all, he had less advantages towards banks as a Colombian. By the way, it has been more difficult for him because of his Latino origins.
  • But the major point is the problem of responsibility in the French culture. As in Columbia, French people have to take more responsibilities and see the boss’s point of view in order to be more efficient.
the adaptation to france
The adaptation to France
  • The first adaptation was in his menus : in his restaurants, it is a Latino food but you can find European reapers : for example, you can drink good French wine, Italian “espresso coffee”, and the Food is cooked with soft spices.
  • Then it has been essential to learn the French culture : the history, the humor, but first of all the language !
  • Then he tried to enter in the French webs (artists, journalists, politicians…) because it seemed to be essential in order to succeed.
the key constraints costs
The key constraints costs
  • This is Alvaro’s view on the key costs :
    • Taxes : “it is a fair redistribution of resources”
    • Rents : “it is very expensive in Paris”
    • Communication constraints : “the will to present the menus both in Spanish and in French”
    • Food importations : “to import some south American products (Argentina beef)”
the key benefits
The key benefits
  • This is Alvaro’s view on the key benefits :
    • The Latino spirit : “it is a strong fashion in France”
    • The French “Art de vivre” : “there are a lot of restaurants in Paris : it is a place with many opportunities”
    • A high “life level” in Paris : “the quality of life is essential in France. It is important to learn about the past and not to make the same errors”
    • The government assistance : “it is really fair in case of bankrupts”
essential advices
Essential advices
  • Alvaro thinks that his success in wining the market in France is mainly due to his adaptation to the French model. In fact, in his restaurants he really tried to build a bridge between Latino and French culture : keeping the clue aspects of the first one and mitigating them by French references.
  • For him, to make this adaptation, the important thing is to love your country of adoption, to be interested by discovering the culture and its specificities. So, finally, his main advice is : “ love the country and the culture”.
  • An other important point is the development of the web. In particular in France, having friends in the good places is an essential point to succeed.