Scheduled to open a second location this October inside a custom-built space in the heart of Arcadia, and with lines still out the door at the original location in Midtown Phoenix, Gadzooks Enchiladas & Soup is a local restaurant success story. So when it came time to grow the brand, famed for its build-your own, instantly-cooked-to-order enchiladas, Gadzooks founder Aaron Pool had plenty of offers from outside investors and even potential franchisors. But instead Aaron Pool turned to a familiar face to fuel Gadzooks' growth, his older brother Jared Pool, who sold his successful dentist practice in San Francisco, and moved back to Phoenix to serve as Gadzooks new Co-Owner and Chief Operations Officer.
Plus, the two brothers are also building a standalone commercial bakery for their mother, Linda Pool, who provides Gadzooks' signature brown sugar glazed pumpkin cookies, that will also feature a commercial space for Gadzooks to create fresh-made dressings, salsas and more as it continues to grow. And the Pool's third brother, Drew, owner for the popular local boutique brewery & tap room, Wren House, will also be partnering with Gadzooks to create a custom Bavarian-style hefeweizen beer, available exclusively at Gadzooks Enchiladas & Soup.
So how does someone go from dentistry to enchiladas, and trade Silicon Valley for the Valley of the Sun? It started with both brothers bonding over the joys, and frustrations, of running a successful business, says Jared Pool. Soon the brothers started meeting regularly in Las Vegas, a convenient middle point between Phoenix and SF, and a new plan was hatched. "Aaron was ready to expand, but 'franchise' is a bad word in Aaron's vocabulary, because quality control is his top priority. So he was looking for potential investors right as I was thinking about moving back closer to home."
As for Gadzooks founder, Aaron Pool, his motivation for bringing his brother onboard was all about maturing as a businessperson. "Like all entrepreneurs, I'm stubborn, but I've also learned I need to be humble about what I'm good at (creative branding and recipes, quality control, etc.), and not good at (H.R., staffing, scheduling, putting systems into place, communicating with staff). I'd rather just do it myself rather than ask someone to do it for me, which is not healthy and a good way to burn out as you grow."
Armed with complimentary skillsets, and clearly defined roles and structures ("If we disagree, Aaron has final say," Jared says), the brothers founded a real estate venture to acquire the land for the second location and the standalone bakery/commissary. Most important, Aaron says, as they get ready to open the second location this fall, the brothers are focused on getting systems in place to replicate the original, without sacrificing quality. "It's not acceptable to open and be lackluster, or stealing employees from the first one to open the second. Gadzooks brand is all about quality from the day we open the doors."
"Aaron's insistence on perfection is both a blessing and a curse, because perfection cannot be found. But my job is to put systems in place to make sure everyone's on the same page from the top on down, and every day stress the quality of the product and taking care of people."
Or as Aaron says, "There's only way to do it, and that's the Gadzooks way."