Forecasting Mexican food’s increasing popularity across the globe, the leading restaurant operator in Latin America decided it was time to take a stand and give a full make-over to their own Mexican-food-expert brand: El Portón.

As part of the strategic team that partnered with Alsea to embrace this challenge, we wanted to dig deeper, explore even bigger scenarios, and reinvigorate the Mexican gastronomic experience, from El Portón’s employee culture all the way to the consumer’s palate.

What if we could unveil the true spirit of Mexican culture by creating a new service experience at El Portón?


Food & Hospitality, Retail

Wow Moments

To deliver on this vision, we had to reengineer the El Portón brand culture from the core. Rather than focus on clichéd Mexican stereotypes (mariachi, tacos, sombreros), we aimed to rediscover the true purpose and character of El Portón, to redefine their operational approach. The true Mexican spirit lies in its peoples’ warmth, empathic service, and complete commitment. This culture needed to transcend borders and stimulate potential customers around the globe.

We discovered that the organizational structure was based on several archetypes that grouped employees not by their age, but by their attitudes, behaviors, and aspirations.

By combining social listening with qualitative and quantitative analytical tools, we gathered privileged/insider information and developed critical insights from teams throughout the organization. In parallel, we were immersed in the smallest details of Mexican cuisine.

We conducted in-depth interviews with C-level directors, employees, and customers. We studied mystery-shopper interactions, visited multiple locations, conducted workshops, and more… all of which helped us unveil the traits that make the business unique. We also identified the team’s pain points, heard customer wish lists, and, most importantly, recognized opportunities.

As we learned more about the employee archetypes at work within El Portón, we tapped into an eclectic mix of talent with enormous promise to embrace and accelerate the organization’s new vision.

We used this information to pinpoint each archetype’s most significant motivational drivers to help us unleash their potential and maximize business performance.

From there, we designed a tribal cultural formula—expanding from the employees’ beliefs through to their daily practices—that came to life in El Portón’s new DNA.

“We were excited to understand the cultural and generational diversity of our talent so we could co-create cultural practices that would empower and encourage everyone to trust the new version of El Portón.” — Paulina Jiménez, El Portón

We knew we had to construct a purpose that mirrors how an authentic Mexican culture reveals the core essence of Mexico’s personality. A cozy and compassionate kitchen environment teamed with attentive and friendly service embodies the El Portón experience.

With our strategic foundation in place, we successfully aligned the internal beliefs that truly shape the essence of El Portón’s thoughts and deeds.

From there, we instituted those beliefs into practices and rituals that prioritize the team’s needs. The new environment promotes and reinforces exemplary behavior, which translates into a better service experience for customers.

“Taking part in such a profound organizational-culture initiative opened our eyes to new opportunities where we could deliver and inspire similar projects within the Alsea brands.” — Andrea Rodríguez, Internal Communication, Alsea

We went on to design a peer-to-peer recognition program, ensuring fulfillment of the tribal model.

Having achieved a scalable cultural model, complete with the necessary guidelines and tools, we co-designed a launch strategy that empowered designated ambassadors to take ownership and help bring this new vision of El Portón to life.

Compliments to the cocineros!

El Portón’s new service model was piloted and rolled out in over 30 restaurants as of January 2018. And they’re just getting started.
We helped unleash the potential of Alsea’s new casual-dining champion through cultural reengineering. The platform we co-created acts as a “North Star” for El Portón’s new operational framework. It allowed the team to develop a new on-boarding plan for managers, scaling the new culture to every corner of the organization… and adding stars to our ratings.