"I have owned restaurants for the last 17 years. We were the winners of the Brooklyn Business Library Power Up inaugural Business Plan Competition and I have a lot of experience that I think I could offer to a new business owner"
Managing Member | Mil Gustos Hospitality Group
expert in multi-unit restaurant operations, hospitality, food & beverage
instagram // @bogotabistro
Mil Gustos Hospitality Group and its subsidiary restaurants, Bogotá Latin Bistro & Mojito Bar, Miti Miti Modern Mexican, Medusa Greek Taverna (located in Park Slope, Brooklyn) and Miti Miti Latin Street Food, located in South Orange, New Jersey, celebrate success in a field where a majority of new restaurants do not make it past the one-year mark.
Member Partners George Constantinou, Fernandez and Farid Ali Lancheros, both with no prior experience in business Management, first opened Bogotá Latin Bistro in July 2005 after four years of intense research and preparation in opening and managing a restaurant and on creating and building a successful business. In 2001 George, who for four years was a general Manager of a restaurant in Fort Greene, approached Farid, who was a longtime employee of a law firm in Manhattan, with the idea of opening a Pan-Latino restaurant in Brooklyn. Farid’s prior restaurant experience included a stint as a busboy over 20 years ago in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Constantinou is half Costa Rican, Ali is half Colombian. They shared a dream of working for themselves and sharing their love for the taste of Central and South America cuisine with their community. They also wanted to create an establishment with a mission dedicated to elevating the status of Latin foods, particularly Colombian cuisine, and culture via great food, music, service and attention to detail.
They began their entrepreneurial journey by attending a “how to” workshop on opening and running a business conducted by The Workshop In Business Opportunities, a private non-profit organization committed to assisting people in becoming successful entrepreneurs.
The 16-week course helped them start a business plan for what was to become Bogotá Latin Bistro. Constantinou and Ali then attended the Brooklyn Business Library's entrepreneurial fair and learned about the library's inaugural business-plan competition, PowerUP! Citigroup Foundation sponsored the contest for Brooklyn-based entrepreneurs who needed startup capital. Entrants would attend classes on creating a business plan, budgeting, and marketing and then submit their own business plan. In late 2003 George and Farid, who spent hundreds of hours at the library scouring reference databases and learning all they could about the restaurant business, took home PowerUP!’s first ever top prize: $10,000 in cash and $10,000 in business-related services.
The competition’s top prize was definitely not enough to open a restaurant in New York City, however winning the competition from amongst a field of 125 applicants certified the vision the partners had for their restaurant. “The value was so much more than the prize money,” said Ali. “It validated our plan and empowered us psychologically.” It also gave the pair extra credibility to present to bankers and accountants. For two years the two partners spent their free time networking and attending seminars and business workshops handing out and collecting business cards. After a great deal of hard work and determination, George and Farid raised necessary capital and secured a space along what the New York Times called “Brooklyn’s hot dining destination strip,” Fifth Avenue in Park Slope Brooklyn.
The entrepreneurs developed a following when they started a blog on their Web site chronicling their progress as aspiring restaurateurs in the months leading up to the opening of the restaurant. The inspiration for the restaurant and its menu was a trip to Farid’s hometown of Bogotá, Colombia. George and Farid, two former Brooklyn Heights‘s residents, explored other places in South America and Central America and picked up tips on traditional dishes along the way. In July 2005, Bogotá Latin Bistro opened for business and to rave reviews. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Council member Leticia James, and other local dignitaries attended a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony a few months later. Architect Kate Webb designed the interior of the bistro and colorful murals celebrating Latino culture created by local artists are featured behind the bar and in the back patio.
“We serve Latin food in a fun, friendly, stylish environment,” said Ali, who was born in Colombia and raised in Park Slope and Pennsylvania. “Our menu is made up of recipes inspired by our travels throughout Latin America, George’s mother’s favorite dishes, and cooking classes we’ve taken at the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan.” One of the most requested items on the Bogotá Bistro “Pan-Latin” menu is the typical rural Colombian dish, the “bandeja paisa” (Spanish for “mountain platter”), a serving of grilled steak, “chicharron” (fried pork skin), “arepa” (white cornmeal cake), rice, beans, fried egg, “maduros” (sweet plantains) and avocado. “It’s a national dish,” George says. "The best offering one would serve to friends and family.”