By Julie Reeder
After years of bank ownership, Pala Mesa Resort and Spa is now in the capable hands of new owner Anil Yadav, who is the perfect person to recreate the property into something beautiful. He says, “Not one inch of this resort will be untouched by the time we finish with it. When we’re done, it will be one the elite properties in this vicinity.”
Anil Yadav initially walked away from buying the property twice, but on the third approach from the bank, he said “I just couldn’t say ‘no,’ and now I’m so glad I didn’t. We were looking to diversify and this property became available. When I pulled into this resort it was so peaceful. With the surrounding hills, it makes you feel love and positive energy.”
He knew that in order to bring the property up to a standard that he would be proud of, he would need to make a significant investment and the property would need a lot of attention. Yadav believes, however, that it will be well worth it. “I believe this property is going to be my pride and joy and the crown jewel of my portfolio by the time we are finished.”
Anil and his team are turn-around experts. He owns 314 restaurants and has over 8,000 employees. “I’m used to a lot of moving parts and blending it all into a complete package. We will do it right. It’s harder than just a restaurant.”
Over 200 of the restaurants he owns are Jack in the Box stores, where Anil started as a fry cook at the age of 18 while he was in high school in Northern California. He came to this country in 1982 from India. He was seeking a better life in the U.S. His family was sponsored into this country by his brother. “My brother owned a hotel. That’s how we got here and since then I have always liked the hospitality industry.”
At the time, Anil was a senior in high school. “I didn’t know a word of English or the culture. We didn’t really even have TV then.” It was a challenge for him but he learned to talk to people and he learned the culture. He wanted to learn electronics, which his high school didn’t offer, so he rode his bike four or five miles to Sequoia High School every day for a good electronics program.
In 1984, while in school as a senior, he started a job at Jack in the Box as a fry cook. “I liked what I was doing at the restaurant.” However, he said being a minority was a challenge at the time. “I was overlooked at first and trained myself. I wanted to perform at the highest level.” His hard work paid off and he was promoted to Team Leader, Assistant, and then Manager in 1986. He continued, “There’s always been the desire to be successful.”
Anil went on to community college in a nearby town where he transferred to another Jack in the Box restaurant. He was working full time and working nights at the restaurant.
After transferring to San Jose State University, Anil transferred to a San Jose Jack in the Box as well, where he worked nights. It was while he worked at this restaurant that he heard the term “franchise” and wanted to learn more. “Franchising wasn’t big then. In 1987 Jack in the Box sent letters out explaining that they were looking for candidates to be franchisees.”
His manager at the time explained that people could own the franchises. Anil was intrigued and excited, believing this was part of his American Dream. He went back to his family and friends and was able to secure enough investment for a down payment on a store that was struggling, and he purchased his first franchise for $625,000. “I’m very fortunate that my brother and sister were willing to help. July 7, 1989 is the day an entrepreneur was born!”
Again, Anil’s hard work paid off and his store was a success. Jack in the Box noticed what a great job he did with the turn around. They offered him another store, which he purchased and successfully turned that around as well. Soon they offered him more stores, one by one. He was successful with all of them.
In December of 1991, when the E. coli scare happened — which Anil is quick to point out, didn’t originate with Jack in the Box — Anil lost 50% of his business overnight. He turned to the community and rolled up his sleeves. He says he worked with churches and schools and did deliveries and phone orders. “By God’s grace the consumers came back.”
After that rough time, Anil made Marketer of the Year for Jack in the Box. His stores gained all that was lost, but the franchise as a whole was down over 30%. Jack in the Box became a champion in the food safety arena. After hiring a NASA scientist, eventually their new food handling systems became industry standard for the HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) restaurant food handling.
After the storm, he was offered three more stores because they were in trouble and he turned them around in 1995. “In 1997 two others were in trouble so they asked me to buy them. That’s when I brought in my manager. He became a partner, and we had seven total.”
Anil makes the point that it was important to him to go back to the people who had helped contribute to his success, including his last manager, and bring them into his company. “I have gone back and taken care of the people who were some sort of connection to my success. For instance, the person who recommended for me to get a job, I gave him ownership.”
In 2003 his success was threatened when Jack in the Box came to him with a group of 25 corporate stores in the Bay Area. These stores were a part of a re-franchising effort and had many operational opportunities. Anil was able to procure the financing to purchase the large number of stores outside his market area, but he said the large project almost broke him. “We didn’t have the systems and people in place for such a large number of stores. It totally takes a different style of management, and that’s when I almost went broke because we grew too fast and didn’t have infrastructure.” But, like most entrepreneurs, they worked tirelessly, invested everything they had, and got through it.
“I didn’t give up and I put everything we had into it and stuck to my belief system. We stuck with it and it was successful and they saw again what we could do.”
“Again they asked me to enter the market in Texas with 25 more stores. In the Houston market we bought 25 stores and we were prepared and ready to take over and apply best practices. We learned from our previous experience. Jack in the Box saw what we could do so they offered us 20 more. We kept doing the things we needed to do. Then we were offered another 10 in northern California and then another 20 and 58 in San Antonio, so currently I own about 220 Jack in the Box restaurants.”
His company has now diversified their portfolio to over 300 restaurants with seven brands. He says, “It’s been great.” When asked, “How do you do it with over 300 restaurants?” He said, “Good people and good structure.”
“I now have in excess of 8,000 employees who work for me, but I still feel like the same guy who started as a fry cook.” He laughed as he said, “I still pick up the mop in the kitchen and people get nervous when I do that. I believe I’m approachable and they can talk to me about anything.”
“You have to connect with the people and early in my career I never got that, and I wished I could have.”
Anil understands that an important part of the success of Pala Mesa depends on creating a culture that will foster long-term quality employees. “I enjoy creating the culture where you’re comfortable and have the tools you need and you’re rewarded for hard work. I believe in a nurturing atmosphere where there is consistent respect for who they work for, and employees are given an environment in which they wish to work.”
In his personal life, he’s now been happily married 25 years and has three kids, ranging in age from age 13 to 22. With all his entrepreneurial success, he is most excited about Pala Mesa. According to Anil, he is living the ultimate American Dream, for which he is very thankful. “We’re blessed with what God has given us, and we don’t want to take it for granted.”
Pala Mesa Resort is located at 2001 Old Highway 395 in Fallbrook. For more information, visit www.palamesa.com or call (760) 728-5881.