Los 3 Pollos keeps pleasing palates amid the pandemic
A Wells Fargo banker helps Latino-owned Los 3 Pollos restaurant group grow a family business in greater Los Angeles.
Nota del editor: También está disponible una versión en español de esta historia.
May 5, 2021: A version of this story also appeared in the ‘We made a way. Together.’ campaign.
Efrain Mejorada Jr. wasn’t even out of high school the first time his dad, Efrain Sr., took him to Wells Fargo’s Gardena Main branch in greater Los Angeles.
“He said, ‘Today I want you to meet Mario,’” Mejorada Jr. said.
It was one of his dad’s regular 50-minute drives to meet Senior Business Banking Specialist Mario Murillo. The Wells Fargo banker had returned to his Latino community in 2015 to better help small businesses like Mejorada’s Los 3 Pollos restaurants thrive.
The Mejoradas credit Murillo’s financial guidance and advice with helping them start their first Mexican restaurant in 2009; grow the concept to three restaurants in California (Compton, Gardena, and Long Beach); and add the payment processing technology, cash-flow management, and other support to keep Los 3 Pollos going amid COVID-19.
Eight of every 10 payments Los 3 Pollos restaurants receive are electronic, as take-out and delivery account for a larger share of sales due to restrictions for in-person dining.
“My father does not speak English so he had to have someone he could turn to who was bilingual and who knew small business in and out and that he could trust with our future,” said Mejorada Jr. of Murillo’s role in the company’s success.
“Mario has been that person and Wells Fargo that bank for us. It’s more than just business — we’re family. We would not be where we are today without him.”
A few years after the meeting with Murillo, Mejorada Sr. said he knew his son was ready and turned over operation of the nearby Gardena location to him in 2011. Mejorada Jr.’s brothers, Hermes and Emmanuel, run the Los 3 Pollos restaurants in Compton and Long Beach. The three inspired Los 3 Pollos’ (Three Chickens) name.
Mejorada Sr. is proud of his sons and the family business and believes Los 3 Pollos will emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever.
“My wife, Susana, and my three sons, we’re all in the business, and we’re one big family,” Mejorada Sr. said. “She said recently, ‘We need to remain strong and keep our businesses going for our employees, customers, and community.’ That’s what we’re doing.”
Whether it’s getting change for one of his restaurants during the current coin shortage, creating credit card accounts for each location to pay vendors, or sharing how the latest digital technology can advance their business, Mejorada Sr. said, Murillo delivers.
“I know he will give me good customer service and advice and not sell me something I don’t need,” Mejorada Sr. said, noting that both he and Murillo moved to the United States from other countries — he from Mexico, and Murillo after the death of his father in El Salvador when he was nine months old.
Although COVID-19 has reduced profits and required changes in the kitchen and other operations for safety, Mejorada Jr. said the pandemic hasn’t dented Los 3 Pollos’ outlook as one of an estimated 5 million Latino-owned U.S. businesses according to Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative’s fourth annual survey of Latino business owners.
“To me, family is the most important thing, and I’ve always wanted to make my parents proud,” Mejorada Jr. said. “My dad raised us to work hard for what we have, dream big, and be optimistic about our future.”
“This family truly exemplifies what it is to live the American dream,” said Murillo, who remembers working for his uncle’s dumpster rental business in Gardena as a teenager.
“There are a lot of people just like my uncle out there that are very good at what they do but need financial guidance and don’t often have anyone who can help them with their business,” Murillo said. “I want to continue be that person.
“I’ve lived the lows and highs with my uncle and this is what helps me create lifelong relationships.”