Hola! opens in Redmond

New restaurant is the fifth for Mexican-Peruvian-themed chain

By Joseph Ditzler / The Bulletin

Published Jan 24, 2014 at 12:01AM

Say hello to Hola! No. 5, now open in Redmond.

The fifth installment of the local restaurant chain serving Mexican and Peruvian cuisine opened in December, said owner Peter Lowes.

“The response has been really positive,” Lowes said.

Hola!, which opened its first restaurant on Bend’s east side in 2007, came about through a partnership between Lowes and Marcos Rodriguez, the former owner of a Mexican restaurant in Bend, Lowes said.

“I came up with the name; he developed the fusion idea,” Lowes said.

Since 2007, the company has opened branches in the Old Mill District, Sunriver and, 18 months ago, downtown Bend.

Lowes said he’s felt pressure to expand as the economy heats up. He said the company is looking to branch out again before year’s end with locations in Portland, Eugene and Southern Oregon.

The Redmond Hola! takes over a 1,500-square-foot space at 514 N.W. Greenwood Ave., where the Country Nook restaurant once operated.

Lowes said the Redmond restaurant employs about 15 people, both full and part time, about one-tenth of the company total. He said he expects to double the number of Redmond employees by summer.

Eric Sande, Redmond Chamber of Commerce executive director, said Hola! will fit well into a community that loves Mexican cuisine.

“We’ve got sort of a special niche,” he said.

Hola!’s expansion through an economic downturn is impressive but not singular, said John Hamilton, Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association vice president of marketing and communications.

Restaurants are a high-mortality business in which about 20 percent meet their demise every year for various reasons, he said.

During the 2008 recession, about 30 percent of Oregon restaurants folded. About 8,000 restaurants operate in the state today, he said.

But the industry has been out of the recession nearly two years, Hamilton said.

Nationwide, restaurateurs this year may expect to reach industry highs in terms of sales, according to the National Restaurant Association forecast for 2014. The association forecasts sales to reach $683.4 billion, 3.6 percent over 2013 sales.

“Even though there are economic challenges — higher beef prices, indexing the minimum wage and paid sick leave — if you can overcome those, generally, I recommend it’s a good time to grow your business,” Hamilton said.

Restaurants can thrive even in hard times, he said, “if they have a good business acumen, they’re providing a good experience and they hit a sweet spot for a price point.”

Lowes said success in the restaurant business is a close-run thing.

“We gotta run a real tight ship,” he said. “We have fantastic managers at all the locations,” including Rodriguez and his brother, Alberto, and the Peña brothers, Nato and Frankie, he said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com