Juan Manuel Chacón (Morón de la Frontera, 1948) came to Catalunya many years ago. In Blanes y Lloret, he discovered the world of restaurants and in 1985 founded Trastevere en Lleida, an Italian restaurant that gave him fame and opened 50 locations throughout Spain under the franchise Tagliatella. After selling the business in 2006, he had the calling in the sector in 2012 and founded a new brand: The Piemontesa and Pani & Pasta. The new empire started to settle with 20 restau-rants.
What relationship does Juan Manuel Chacón with Tarragona?
Many years ago I worked in Tarragona. First, we opened Trastevere on Street Apodaca, about 20 years ago. Then came another on the street Méndez Núñez and a third in Reus. It is a city and a province that has always treated us well.
How did you discover the city of Tarragona?
I have been living in Lleida for 30 years and Tarragona is the beach for many of us inhabitants of lleida. Even more so, the climate and monuments are a must, which allowed me to know the city and begin a business.
So the sight is being a tourist?
Yes, thats a possibility. You have to enjoy the area..
Are Tarragona and Reus better places for restaurant businesses than in Costa Brava, where there are more people in summer?
I really like the city of Tarragona because I knew the seasonality of the tourist areas. I lived in Llo-ret, in Costa brava and know how they work. The truth is I was a little tired of creating a seasonal business and when I moved to Lleida, I saw that satisfied me more to work all year and not just a few months. So when I came here and looked for premises in the city.
Since the pizzerias in Blanes entered the business of Italian catering, what is your secret for pasta?
Pasta in Spain, actually, did not work so well before as it does now. Before it was macaroni, can-nelloni, ravioli .. little was known as a business base.
"We opened a new restaurant in Reus without losing the style we have. It will be in the old Traste-vere"
Were you one of the pioneers in Spain?
Somehow we helped introduce the methodology of the business in a country interested in this cui-sine.
What was the first restaurant you opened with this business model?
We opened in Zaragoza. The name was Pastificio. The second we opened in la Rambla Nova de Tarragona. It was a menu full of varieties such as: pasta, pizzas, risottos... making it more Italian.
What is the secret to pasta that will never go out of style?
When I began to eat pasta daily, I discovered that it did not make digestion difficult and I could repeat the meal many times without problems. I did this test, to know the product in my many trips to Italy, I saw that the vast majority of Italians have pasta in the fridge and eat pasta at least once a day.
Should pasta have something on it to make it more appealing?
It is a product that is easily digestible, affordable for all budgets, easy to cook... And then another thing, Italy is not a country of overweight people, but normal people.
He founded an empire that was sold in 2006 to an investor group for 70 million.
The Tagliatella was born in a time of economic recovery (in the 90s). After several tests, done with the franchise model. In fact, we opened Pastificio in Tarragona going in this direction, but I liked it so much that I felt sorry and I stayed. And so we set Tagliatella which was the franchise record. In a delicate moment in my personal life, came an interesting offer. But if I tell the truth the sale had little to do with money and a lot with my mood and feelings.
Did you have the fire in you to want to come back into the business after selling the company?
The truth is that I did not know what to do. We had sold the company, but not the restaurants. We were with the patrimony and some of the restaurants had to be rented from the new owners of the franchise. Then we invested in hotels, one in Seville and one in Granada, but I was missing a res-taurant. If I see a place full I want it to be mine.
"Tarragona is an ideal city to do business and look for places that function all year long, not just seasonally."
Is this how La Piemontesa (2012) y Pani&Pasta (2015) were born?
I like setting up restaurants and seeing them crowded. I am pleased when the business works well. So I fell again and created a new structure with La Piemontesa and Pani & Pasta.
What are your short and long terms plans?
After opening the new Pani & Pasta in Mendez Nunez a few weeks ago, now we want to make a special restaurant in what was the old Trastevere Reus, which is closed.
Can you give us anymore information?
We intend to be a new restaurant where there will be pasta and pizza, but taking risks by a wide range, without leaving the speciality of Italian restaurants with the same quality as always, which is the guarantee of survival.
When is the opening of the restaurant in Reus?
We believe we will open in 2016.
What other projects do you have underway?
We have three franchises that have already agreed in Malaga, Granada and Madrid. In addition to the two in the province of Tarragona that opened and the future in Reus.
Your businesses are in Spain, have you thought about taking them internationally?
To this day no, even though we have had offers, for example from United Kingdom, Mexico and Abu Dabi.
I want to settle down well in Spain, where we have room for improvement. We want to finish the expansion of the factory in Lleida, scheduled for Easter. With it we are already able to supply many franchises. Then, when everything is ready we'll see what we could do. Although I still think that in my country there are many good places to explore and open new franchises.
In 2014, La Piemontesa made 13.5 million, How much do you hope for this year?
We estimate about 20 million. In 2015 we have had increased sales. It is true that there are still consequences of the crisis, because if there had been, I believe that the turnover would come close to 30 million.