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Serving Salsa With a Smile: How Lisa and Miguel Became Local Food Celebrities

Season 2: Episode 39


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Lisa and Miguel Segura, owners of Miguel’s Artisan Recipes, always have an open seat at their table. The couple has spent the last three years finding new ways to share their jarred salsas and fresh Mexican recipes with their community. What started as pandemic deliveries to their circle of friends turned into a full-fledged brick-and-mortar operation in Clovis, California. Yelp user and Community Director Nathen M. shares his experience meeting Miguel and Lisa and falling in love with their business.

From the Yelp Blog: Discover 3 free promotion strategies to get the word out about your business.

EMILY: I’m Emily Washcovick, Yelp’s Small Business Expert. On Behind the Review, I pick a review on Yelp and talk to the entrepreneur and the reviewer about the story and business lessons behind their interactions.

This week, I’m talking with Lisa and Miguel Segura, owners of Miguel’s Artisan Recipes. Originally a taco tent, that then turned into a taco truck, and now is a brick and mortar business operating out of a convenience store in Clovis, California, selling their jarred salsas, tamales, and other Mexican staples. Miguel and Lisa’s delicious menu and top-tier customer service have made them local food celebrities in the Fresno area.

We’ll also hear from reviewer Nathen M., a Senior Community Director at Yelp. Nathen has worked with hundreds of local business owners in his nine years at the company, but his first experience at Miguel’s was a true standout.

NATHEN: I first discovered them when I was gonna put together an event series on the top 100 places to eat in the Central Valley North, which is my current market. And they were number one. So like any good due diligence, I reached out. ‘Hey, I’d love to work with you, host an event. And congrats on being number one.’ Sort of like, ‘Hey, did you even know you’re on this list?’

I sent her a ping on Instagram and she wrote me back immediately and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. We got a live one.’ She was very interested in being #1, of course, but then also wanting to be a part of this event series. And she just wanted more information. Smash cut to us meeting in person.

I was taken back by how sweet they were, how just gracious. And then, they fed me, which is great. The tacos were amazing. The salsa was amazing. I got to taste all the salsa, but then while we ate and sampled, I got to learn about them and how this pivot to food came from 2020.

EMILY: Miguel’s Artisan Salsas was created during the pandemic – like many of the guests we’ve had on Behind the Review. Let’s hear from Miguel and Lisa about how they turned their passion for sharing homemade recipes into a staple Mexican food destination in their community.

MIGUEL: I was a route driver. And on my route, I used to drop off salsa with customers. This all started because one day Lisa couldn’t make the salsa. And I wanted to make salsa, so I called her up, and she told me what to make, you know, how to make it. Well, one day, I accidentally put the wrong salt inside of that jar, and then you know, I was about to throw it out, and Lisa was like, taste it. And I was like, but it’s gonna be bad, like, every time I do this, it’s wrong, you know?

Anyways, I tasted it after that and I was like, “Oh my God, this is magic!” From there, my friend, she tasted it and I was like, do you think I should hand this out to customers? She’s like, you should just start selling this. And, after that she became my guinea pig for all the different salsas that I would make.

LISA: He was telling me that everybody wanted to buy it from him. And of course, we weren’t in a position to sell salsa that wasn’t on our radar of things to do. And, COVID happened. We got some time together, and we decided that we wanted to spend time together. We wanted to stay focused on our passion.

MIGUEL: Lisa and I got furloughed right around the pandemic. And she was just like, I have to do something. Then she created a label for it, and she told me, I’m gonna start selling your salsa. And I’m like, yeah, come on, you know, like, that’s not gonna work. My daughter and I were giving her a hard time, but Lisa was like, watch. And so, anyways, now we’re here, right? So I think she was right.

LISA: I really enjoy cooking, and so I learned how to cook with Miguel’s mom. I learned a lot of her recipes over the 20 years that we’ve been together. Overall, I like to master the recipes. I like to elevate them. And I like to share them with everybody. I don’t want to just cook for myself, but I want to cook for everybody.

We would also sit at the dinner table and I would say, you know, one day when I open my restaurant. It was kind of a pipe dream. So when I had the opportunity to take the time to work with my husband and to create an opportunity to share our food with everybody, I had to do that. You know, I had to go after my dream. It was the right time. Everything came together so that we could grow this.

EMILY: Miguel and Lisa’s jarred salsas and family recipes took off in their neighborhood, but not without several shifts in business model. Adapting where and how you run your business, and taking every opportunity to get out into the community, is a crucial part of connecting with a new and growing customer base.

LISA: Every year, we’ve had a new way to bring the food to people. At first it was friends and family bringing tamales during Christmas season. Then they told their friends, then they told their friends. We’re delivering out of the car and doing it that way. And then we got a tent. Somebody talked to us about, ‘hey, why don’t you come out and do this pumpkin patch?’ We started doing community events with a company out here called Fresno Street Eats. Mike Oz helped us get into a certified kitchen. He helped us get into community events. And then we were coming out in pop up tents. And that was a lot of hard work. And the next year we purchased a trailer, a food truck. And then we were going out in the trailer, our little taco truck, and just growing.

MIGUEL: We would just yell out the window, and tell people ‘Come try the salsa, come try the salsa,’ and every single time, they were always like, ‘I’m not sure, I’m not sure,’ but then all of a sudden, they taste it, they’re like, ‘Oh my God, this really is good.’ That’s how our customers started out here in Fresno is they would come up to the truck and then from there we had the taco dorados, we had the tamales, and they’d get all the flavors of everything that we make.

EMILY: After a couple years of pop-up events, and having a food truck that moved around town, Lisa and Miguel ‘soft-opened’ their brick-and-mortar location at the end of 2023. With fast-growing demand, they needed a home base where customers could always find them, to come enjoy Miguel’s seven days a week. This storefront is where Nathen visited when he first connected with Lisa and Miguel. Let’s give his review a listen.

NATHEN: Why is it taking me this long to write a review for Miguel’s? Their food and jarred salsas are just fantastic and consistently delicious. My favorite salsa is their Taco Verde Truck Salsa, which is a perfect mix of tomatillo tanginess with a hint of spice that slowly builds up on you. I literally put this on anything I’m eating these days. It’s just that good.

I do believe they sell four different types of salsas as well, which includes a very spicy habanero version, which is a little bit too much for me. Their tacos are to die for, but recently I tried their tamales, and it’s the perfect ratio of masa to tender pork. Slightly spicy, but delicious.

My Mexican mother in law, who is very, very picky with her tamales, gave these a double thumbs up. They recently moved into a brick-and-mortar venue that’s attached to a fully stocked convenience store. And this place is more of a grab and go style, but there is a small dining area near the back of the store.

I highly suggest you come on by and get your eat on and a few jars of salsa for the road.

EMILY: The authentic culinary experience that Nathen had is exactly what Lisa and Miguel try to create for their customers. Using Miguel’s mother’s recipes, their signature menu items introduce some customers to traditional Mexican cuisine while evoking nostalgia for others.

LISA: I think sharing the recipe and sharing the food and everybody’s reaction has given us the confidence to keep growing in our community. It’s really we’re just feeding our neighbors. They tell us, you know, this tastes like my grandma’s, or this tastes like my aunt’s, or this tastes like my mother’s, and I haven’t had this, or I haven’t been able to have this food.

MIGUEL: Yeah, some people actually bring memories of their mother or father that passed a long time ago, and they’re just like, you just took me back 20 years. And you know, that’s like the biggest compliment in the world to me because like you’re having my mother’s food.

LISA: Yeah, and I think food brings us together. It transports you to when you had that last.

EMILY: Lisa and Miguel are all about sharing the food they love! And take every chance they get to connect with customers, old and new. One of these opportunities is their TV segment on local news channel, Fox 26. Making a new recipe with Miguel’s Artisan Recipes on-camera each month, the couple gets a chance to share their business and their great dishes with a wider regional audience.

MIGUEL: There was a local catering company that did a segment there every month. And one month he wasn’t able to do it and he kind of made a joke with Lisa like ‘oh, do you want to do the show?’ And Lisa said yes. I don’t think he believed us at first and then the next time I talked to him like ‘Hey we’ll do that show, you know, like we’ll jump on there.’ I was so nervous when we did it. It was so amazing, you know, like we’re on there and all the people from Fox 26 are there. It was such an experience and Lisa just shined from the beginning. She is a star when it comes to being in front of the camera.

LISA: You know, you put practice into it. This was part of our plan. Our goals. I would like to continue our journey on television and cooking and developing recipes.

And also using Miguel’s salsa. We use Miguel’s salsa in most of our ingredients. So being able to promote that and give you other uses and great uses for the sauces to make your food taste better at home, I think that that’s… Because so many of us enjoy cooking and trying new things and hearing from each other.

There is a community out there that shares recipes and I am excited to be part of that community and share the recipes that we’re developing and how we improve them and how we develop them on television right now. It gives me an outlet to practice. I like to stay out there, you know on television, on YouTube, and keep developing that. If other people want to cook with me that you know is It’s super exciting. I mean, it’s just exciting that I get to do what I love to do, with people that like to do it too.

EMILY: Lisa and Miguel’s segment has made them local celebrities, meeting new customers every time they’re out and about. In line with their mission of sharing food and experiences, they stress the importance of capitalizing on the attention they’ve earned to give back to their community.

MIGUEL: There’s a lot of people that recognize us when we’re outside and it is pretty cool. We love everybody that comes up to us. We always talk to them. We always invite them to come in. And then when they come in, we actually give a free sample of the salsa. That way you know exactly what you’re going to have, or, you know, which one to pick with your tacos or burrito.

LISA: I get to share my food with my neighbors. And when you have your neighbors come over to the house, you’re not just giving them food. You’re visiting, you’re having coffee.

MIGUEL: You’re meeting different business owners. You’re getting different opportunities on top of that. Yesterday we got to talk to Fuego, the soccer team out here. Lisa has been invited to do a women’s conference here.

LISA: We’re gonna work with St. Francis homeless project that helps women develop work skills. So, you know, it’s not just about us making food, it’s about making a difference, you know, giving to other people. We all are doing this and growing together. So I feel so blessed to be part of this community and to be giving part of myself, and our cooking and our family legacy to the community. And I think that Miguel’s mom would have said it best, you know, like, ‘bring everybody to the house, let them eat.’

MIGUEL: The door was always open. All the neighbors would come in and out whenever they felt like it. Same with any family member. She always had at least beans for you, beans and rice, you know, but if there was something else, she’d also throw that in your burrito.

EMILY: Their integration in the local community is what stands out most about Lisa and Miguel’s business to reviewers like Nathen. By authentically connecting with people, both inside and outside of your storefront, you can draw in customers who aren’t just there for the food, but are there for you and the community you’re building.

NATHEN: It’s a lot of work to be out and about all the time and run a business. I know they have some children as well, so I don’t know how they do it, but they do it. And they do it with grace. Every time I’ve met them in person, there’s never a look of, ‘Oh my gosh, how do we do this?’ It’s just, ‘how are you doing? We’re excited to see you. Do you want some food?’

And if you read their reviews, people just rave about their customer service and how sweet they are. There’s a review where a woman reached out to them. They had a long layover at the Fresno airport. She found them on Yelp and said, ‘Hey, do you guys deliver?’ And they’re not really set up for that, but they said, yeah, we’ll get you. What do you need? And they drove tacos to the Fresno airport for this woman and her kids.

I think that is so huge. And that’s not just because, ‘Oh, we’re going to make an extra 20 dollars.’ I think it’s, ‘Hey, this woman needs help. She’s got two kids. They’re hungry.’ I’ve been to the Fresno airport. There’s some options for food, but you know, this mom decided to look elsewhere and they answered the call and they were there to help it out.

So I think – these little small things, the taco truck competitions, the being on TV, the driving to the airport, when you stack them all on top of each other, all are this tall, totem pole of accomplishments that all add up to something big. You see them doing this stuff in the community, it shows that’s their personality. That’s how they live. They want to make sure people have a warm meal in their belly, but also they get it with a smile.

NATHEN: Doing this with Yelp for nine years, I’ve worked in four markets. One thing has never changed when it comes to pitching my events is your food will become secondary. If people can see you and identify with you and learn a little bit about you, they are going to fall in love with you and they will want to support you.

And how do they do that? By coming back to your restaurant and eating your delicious food. Business owners like Lisa and Miguel, when you talk to them, you sort of fall in love with them. You’re like, ‘God, these people are so great.’ Like I’m not hungry, but I will buy food because I want to make sure they’re getting some cash that day. You know what I mean?

Sometimes it’s hard. There’s days where you’re like, I don’t feel like being a customer service person today. But business owners and customers are humans. And if you can find a connection there, that’s really all it takes.

You know, consumers are smarter these days. And when they see that in a business owner, who’s a genuine person who genuinely cares about not only the food but to make sure this experience is fun, that sticks with people. And so later on, when they’re looking for a place to eat even if they’re craving pizza, they’ll say, ‘Ooh, but Miguel’s Artisan Recipes is down the street. And I wonder if Lisa’s going to be there when I pop in.

EMILY: One reason Lisa and Miguel love connecting with their customers is because it helps them fine tune their business model. And their menu. By starting out with a small portfolio of high-quality items, and growing based on what customers like and want to see, you can invest your time and resources into a menu that is not only delicious but catered directly to your audience.

LISA: Starting with our taco truck menu and then being able to talk to our customers and everybody that comes in and then seeing the need. What are they asking for? What don’t I have on my menu? I’m really glad that we didn’t put a full menu out when we started because then we would have limited ourselves. Really we’re doing what people are asking for.

We’re not going to have everything that’s going to be in each Mexican restaurant. But what we are going to do is we’re going to make sure that we do it well, that the recipe is developed, that we can put it out and be proud of it. And then from there, we can add to it as we go.

EMILY: Online review platforms are the perfect place to collect this kind of feedback. Some reviewers prefer to give their comments online or in writing, so creating customer touchpoints on platforms like Yelp helps business owners collect as much information as possible about what people want more of and what they’d like to see changed.

LISA: Miguel actually was the one that put us on Yelp, and Yelp has become a great tool for us so that we can keep the pulse of our business and where we are. I think that getting feedback from people is always positive. Where am I and how can I be better? Am I connecting with the people that are purchasing the food from us? We are proud of the food that we’re putting out. And if we’re not meeting the expectation, it’s really important for us to correct that.

MIGUEL: I think the big part of those reviews as well, is Lisa doesn’t just take a phone call and then sit there and tell you what we do. We actually listened to the customer first. I come from a sales world. I don’t come from being a chef, so, when you come and visit us, we want to know what your experience is that you’re looking for. I have cooks and I have chefs that are already in my kitchen now. All we have to do is find out what food you like, whether it’s barbecue, whether it’s Mediterranean, whether it’s Hawaiian or a breakfast that’s a traditional breakfast or Mexican. We have perfected all of these recipes.

LISA: We have catering that we do. That we’ve developed recipes beyond just the Mexican cuisine. And we do add our sauces. We do make everything from scratch. We do make sure that our quality is very high. We have high expectations for ourselves, and we want other people to have good experiences when they’re eating the food. Like, I want to have a good experience when I’m eating. And I want everybody to have a good experience when they’re eating my food. So, how can I be better? How can I improve? I mean continuously improving is part of our culture. Just as a couple, as people, improving ourselves.

EMILY: This desire to grow and improve their menu—and put customer feedback at the forefront—has been a huge part of Lisa and Miguel’s success, earning them a 5-star rating on Yelp with almost 60 reviews before they’ve officially opened their brick and mortar spot. At the end of the day, customers are there because they want a delicious and satisfying culinary experience, with great customer service. Fresh, high-quality ingredients are a huge attraction for reviewers like Nathen.

NATHEN: I think sometimes restaurant owners in general can get caught up in the ‘Oh, we need to have the brass door handles. We need to have the marbling’ versus like, just make sure the food’s good. I think they just wanted to find a spot where they could sort of be, this is our home base now. Now if our catering truck is not available, now we have a home base here where we’re here seven days a week. Come visit us. Come see us. And that way they can put more focus just on the food and the ingredients.

I’ve talked to them. They’re buying stuff fresh every day, every week. A lot of the recipes are Miguel’s mother’s, so I think that respect to his mother, his culture, and just his family, like you don’t want to skimp, you want to give the best that we can give. And I think that speaks a lot for them. Instead of spending that extra cash on a flashy restaurant, hey, let’s stay with something that maybe fits better within our budget. But that extra cash we save on the smaller venue goes towards making sure we have the freshest ingredients. Central Valley is an agricultural community, so there’s access to meat, fresh vegetables, these proteins that are just down the road. I think they’re taking full advantage of that, and it shows. The food is delicious.

EMILY: Though Miguel’s was an easy 5-star rating for Nathen, he understands and appreciates the value of critical reviews as well. When written thoughtfully and respectfully, they create key opportunities for small businesses to grow. Nathen shares his experiences on Yelp not just to help other customers decide where to eat, but to give businesses constructive feedback.

NATHEN: I try to really sort of give everybody the benefit of the doubt, especially if it’s a great restaurant with a great review and I had a not so good experience. I tend to think it’s a one-off. I’m going to go back and try that. Or even if it’s a not so highly reviewed place, Let me go back one more time because, you never know. You might go back and like, Oh, maybe they’re trying to improve upon something that they’re reading about the reviews, and I catch the day when they do that. And I can be like, ‘Hey, four stars! This place is amazing. I think they’re making a menu change up.’ Reviewing is not just like a vapid sort of shallow thing. I put a little thought into it.

Working with Yelp for so long and seeing both sides of the coin, really, I’m on the business side and I’m on the customer experience side, I think one thing I would like customers to know is if you have a bad experience, before you decide to go and write maybe something that in 24 hours you’re not going to have the same feeling about, maybe take a beat and just think about the person behind the counter, the person behind the grill, the person behind the review who is grinding it out 24 hours a day. It doesn’t just end when the restaurant closes, when they go home, now they’re budgeting and they’re ordering food and they’re looking at the month and they’re like, Ooh, we need to sell X amount of more sandwiches. Otherwise we’re not going to make our nut this month.

I wish customers would really just take that one minute to step back and be like, maybe I should write a review that is a little more constructive versus destructive.

And then also the same thing for the business owner. Don’t look at a person who’s gonna potentially review you as your nemesis. You don’t know what they’re walking in from. Maybe the best part of their day is enjoying your sandwich or your taco or your beer or your gym class or whatever your business is. Try to put your best foot forward all the time. I know that’s a tall order, especially these days, but I think there’s something there where if the consumer and the owner took sort of just a beat before immediately assuming something, there’d be a little less anger out there.

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