Two months ago Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila Bar opened its third location in downtown Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the small chain is set to open its fourth outlet this summer in West Palm Beach, Florida.
While there’s nothing groundbreaking about additional locations being added to a chain, what is unusual is that just 14 years ago, owner Rocco Mangel was a busboy in a restaurant similar to those he owns and operates today.
How did such a long climb up the career ladder happen so quickly and for someone with so little experience?
Mangel may not have had much experience but his forebears did: Both his father and his grandfather managed restaurants, his grandfather in the famed Copacabana in New York, and Rocco worked for a while for his father, so he did have some idea of the business.
But in 1997, the then 22-year-old Mangel left New York for Florida, to seek his fortune.
His first job was as a busboy at Big City Tavern, owned by Big Time Restaurant Group, in Fort Lauderdale, where he was quickly promoted to bar-back and then waiter. “I just kept telling my bosses I wanted to do more,” he says, of his three-year stint there.
In 2000, he moved to GiGi’s Tavern and Bar in MIzner Park, Florida, and moonlighted at New York Prime, a steakhouse, for four years.
A quick stint in a nightclub followed then Mangel joined a new Mexican restaurant venture, MoQuila in Boca Raton.
“I ended up going there to be a host. Two weeks later I was GM. They just promoted me; they thought it was a good fit. I was there for about a year as the GM, then I moved to an Italian restaurant next door that was owned by the same company and was GM then manager of operations for both restaurants.
Ten Years On
By 2007, ten years after he’d first arrived in Florida, Mangel decided he wanted more. It was time for his own restaurant He cashed in some investment property and spent six months traveling around the U.S. and Mexico for what he calls R&C—Research and Copy.
“I traveled the country—I went to Mexico twice, Dallas, Scottsdale, Phoenix, New York and L.A.—and went to 64 different restaurants to take a little of somebody else’s idea.”