At 8:13 p.m. Sunday, with less than four hours before voting for the Star’s Burrito Madness competition closed, Zivaz Mexican Bistro posted this message on its Facebook page:
“URGENT URGENT we need more votes.” A link to the online voting site followed.
Zivaz — which also won the Star’s Burger Madness in 2013 — came out ahead in the final round of the competition. But just barely: only 14 votes separated the restaurant from the runner-up, Olé Mexican Grill.
The Madness experience: “It was very stressful,” says Zivaz’s owner Cecilia Valenzuela.
“We were up, we were down, we were up, we were down.”
Getting out the vote: Valenzuela was relentless in her push for votes.
“We sent mailings, we did Facebook, fliers in the restaurant, and we were telling people to vote for us,” she says. “We did a little bit of everything.” Including don’t-forget-to-vote stickers on take-out containers
Bringing in the old and new: Zivaz’s daily burrito specials pulled in new customers promising to return for the next day’s special, says Valenzuela. And the restaurant’s regular customers stopped in, ate, and voted, she adds.
The burrito bump: Those burritos really brought in the customers throughout the Madness competition. During the last week of July, before Madness began, Zivaz sold 350 burritos. After Madness launched on Aug. 6, Zivaz sold an average of 410 burritos a week, says Valenzuela. Not bad for a restaurant opened just six days a week.
About that name: Don’t look for Zivaz in the dictionary. Valenzuela and her husband, Felipe, made it up. “We were looking for something different, and we couldn’t find anything we liked,” says Cecilia. “Zivaz looked nice and sounded good.”
The food: The fast-casual Mexican restaurant touts its fresh ingredients and handmade dishes. And she gives her husband, who grew up in Sinaloa, Mexico, credit for the recipes. “He is from a family who loves cooking,” she says. “His mom is a very good cook.”
A family affair: The couple runs the restaurant, and has since it first opened in November 2005. Though their sons help out when they can, they have their own jobs and are not involved in the day-to-day operations.
Keeping it focused: “In the beginning,” says Cecilia, “we thought about expanding then the economic crisis came, and then my husband became ill.”
Her husband is fine now, the crisis is waning, but they are still not thinking about opening additional locations. “Not right now,” says Cecilia, leaving the possibilities open.
What’s next: With the competition behind them, the Valenzuelas are ready to carry on as before with “good food, good quality, good service,” she says. And to celebrate: “Maybe we’ll have more specials — maybe three in one day, instead of just one. I think that’s what we’ll do.”
Where it is: 4590 E. Broadway, 325-1234 or zivaz.com