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"Pinche Gringo: How a Former Apple Employee Built a $9 Million Food Empire"

Francesca Feresin
copertina dan defossey

Dan Defossey, alongside his friend and partner Roberto Luna, created Grupo Chilangogringo, a brand that currently boasts seven restaurants, including sandwich shops, a bar, and the flagship Pinche Gringo BBQ. The concept? Texan-style barbecue.

The story

Growing up in Long Island, Dan Defossey, 44, always thought he would go into politics. And indeed, he began his career in that field, but ultimately became a teacher and a member of the Teach For America Corps in Texas, then secured a job as an education and training manager at Apple in New York. He held this position for just over three years until he was promoted to the role of Marketing Manager for Education in Latin America in 2009. Defossey then moved to Mexico City. There, in 2013, he decided with his friend Roberto Luna that it was time to do something else in life. Despite having no prior experience in restaurant management, the two decided to embark on the adventure of opening one together (as reported by CNBC).

Dan Defossey

"We had no idea how to run it," Defossey confesses today. Yet, here they are. They began in 2013, buying an Airstream in Texas and bringing it to Mexico City. And that's where they opened their first Texan-style barbecue restaurant. "I knew we would invest everything in it because we wanted it to be something unique. There were no other barbecue formats in the city; we are so close to the United States, and Mexicans love meat. So, there was a great opportunity to make a breakthrough in the food industry. And when you have the opportunity to do something like that, you have to seize it."

pinche gringo bbq2

The couple decided to name the restaurant Pinche Gringo, which means "damned American," and they poked fun at the idea of opening a typical American barbecue joint in Mexico City. "I think the humble beginning broke down a barrier and allowed our Mexican customers to be more open to something truly different." At first, Defossey and Luna spent hours giving out samples and explaining the meat to the locals. They barely made $30 a day, and the food didn't taste excellent. "But we kept training," he says. One day, a local journalist tried the food and published a positive piece about the restaurant. Since then, Pinche Gringo has had a loyal customer base.

dan defossey Juan Pablo Espinosa
@Juan Pablo Espinosa

Being a Texan-style barbecue restaurant in Mexico City is not the only thing that sets the brand apart; in fact - and this is the beauty of it - it doesn't offer any traditional Mexican dishes on the menu. "I don't have tortillas. I don't have agua Jamaica, agua horchata. I don't have toreados with chili. And the most sacrilegious thing is that I don't have limes, and Mexicans love limes on their dishes." Defossey embarked on a real challenge with himself. "And why? Because I wanted to create something unique." The partners opened the first restaurant in 2013, but since then, they have expanded into what is now known as Grupo Chilangogringo. The brand owns and operates seven restaurants, including sandwich shops, a bar, and the flagship Pinche Gringo BBQ. It is the largest location and can accommodate up to 2,000 people at once. In 2022, Grupo's revenue was an impressive 159,121,000 Mexican pesos, which is equivalent to over 9 million dollars. The restaurant group has 105 employees and sells 15-20 tons of meat per month.

pinche gringo bbq

"Actually, we opened this restaurant to share an authentic part of our culture with Mexicans, so we can unite the two countries," says Defossey. "This is the power of sharing my beautiful American culture with Mexico. And this is how I can give back the affection this country has embraced me with." Currently, Defossey's goal is to continue expanding while providing the best support to his staff. "I always believed that the soul of our restaurants is the people. It makes me very happy to go to work every day. I love my people. I love the restaurants. I love being here. And I am finally living that initial dream."

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