In a hidden storefront on the first floor of a downtown parking garage sits a small restaurant, called Super Rico, where one UCF alumnus has evolved his business from a late-night food truck to a downtown success on the verge of an expansion.
Business management graduate Steven Snyder first welcomed downtown visitors to his Colombian restaurant in 2013, and less than two years later, what used to be a hole in the wall now attracts a line long enough to come out of the door on Orlando City Soccer Club gamedays.
“That first game was a game-changer,” Snyder said. “I give a lot of credit to Orlando City Soccer because it’s brought a lot of exposure to me. We’re pretty much off the beaten path, and I think people kind of like that about us, but word’s getting out and it’s growing and getting bigger.”
The restaurant, which is located up the street from the stadium, has been approximately 70 percent busier since the start of the season, Snyder said.
In order to meet the high demand of game days, Snyder has had to rearrange staff schedules and make other accommodations, but the business Orlando City Soccer has stimulated for the downtown spot goes beyond that.
“I have regulars now [who] come here every week for lunch because they found us while walking home from a game,” Snyder said.
Prior to opening up a permanent location, Snyder primarily operated the business at night, attracting a loyal and steady late-night crew. But with the new location soon came new hours.
“Being downtown and knowing that all of these people go to work every day, and that there’s not much of the food that I offer out there, I just knew it was a huge opportunity for me,” Snyder said. “It took maybe an hour on my opening day before I realized that it was going to be huge, because we were slammed.”
Super Rico now makes 65 to 70 percent of its revenue from its lunch hours, Snyder said.
“I still do nights because that’s what I’ve always done, and I have my regulars there too, so it’s worth it to me,” he said.
Aside from expanding his hours, the restaurant will soon add an additional prep kitchen in the same building, which will allow Snyder to open up the menu and serve more traditional Colombian dishes.
“There’s a lot of Colombians downtown for sure, but there’s also just a lot of people who are Latin, and I can’t think of a single place downtown that offers Latin breakfast, which is another reason we’re expanding the kitchen,” Snyder said.
The menu incorporates a fusion of Colombian food with fast-casual dining options, some of which were created by Snyder himself, such as the Arepica, a corn cake topped with hogao sauce, jalapeno relish, grilled vegetables and queso blanco.
“Knowing that there’s a huge vegetarian community in Orlando, I really like to make it a vegetarian-friendly place; but as Colombians, we eat a lot of meat, so it’s been hard to fuse it and make it work,” Snyder said. “We use a lot of sauces and make many of them, as well as rely a lot on the textures of the sauces.”
After learning about the lack of sustainability related to producing and consuming meat while pursuing his business degree at UCF, Snyder begin to offer vegetarian dishes, such as the Portobello burger and vegetarian empanadas.
Another significant lesson Snyder said he took away from his business degree was the emphasis that was placed on ethical conduct throughout his education, which has been a guiding principle as he operates through the industry.
“I think in our generation specifically, people are a lot more aware of what is going on – people are recycling and want to eat better food that isn’t pumped up with steroids,” he said. “So there’s really a lot more to owning a restaurant, because you have to be able to make a difference. If you want to survive, you have to adapt to what’s going on.”
One constant that has and will remain a primary focus from the days of the food truck to the new expansion is the detail to attention and personal feel, said Snyder.
“I think what’s unique about our restaurant is really how small it is,” he said. “People know us and we know everyone that comes in there, and they like the fact that they feel important.”
Daniela Marin is the Entertainment Editor for the Central Florida Future.