Local Mexican Restaurant Motivates College Students to Succeed

Story Highlights:

  • Store manager at Que Pasa Mexican Café and Tequila Bar Adrian Rodriguez motivates student employees to pursue a better life

  • Zayra Solorzano says working at Que Pasa makes going to school and working fairly easy

  • Jenna Alvarado works at Que Pasa and is a full-time student who sees many benefits in working in the restaurant business for students

  • The symbiotic relationship between restaurants and students is highly beneficial

It is a common misconception that if you go to school and get a degree a job will just fall out of the sky into your hands. The hard truth is that even with a college degree many people still end up working in the restaurant business.

As a store manager at Que Pasa Mexican Café and Tequila Bar in San Luis Obispo, Adrian Rodriguez struggled to find a job for years in the field of his degree until he ended up “settling” for a job in the restaurant business.

Working His Way to the Top

“I went to Santa Clara Mission College for two years and got a degree as a Computer Technician,” Rodriguez says. “When I went out to apply for jobs everybody was asking for experience which I didn’t have any.”

After working his way up to store manager from dishwasher in only eight months Rodriguez says he thinks that a degree shouldn’t be an obstacle in your life to succeed nor should it be an excuse for you not to succeed.

“I know a lot of people who have a nursing degree and they manage a Taco Bell or have a business degree and work at a dealership selling cars,” Rodriguez says. “I think a degree is necessary but if you don’t have one it shouldn’t be an excuse for you settle.”

You go to school and you graduate in something but if there’s no opportunity in the field you have to survive, Rodriguez says.


Helping People Pursue A Better Life

“I remember three specific cases when we first opened this restaurant, we had two engineering graduates and an architecture graduate, all from Cal Poly, applying as bussers,” Rodriguez says.

These people were overqualified and I didn’t want to give them the job because that would not be helping them, Rodriguez says. I want to encourage people to pursue their dreams not just give up on them.

Rodriguez is always trying to help his employees succeed in any way possible especially his younger ones going through college.

            “I’ve been working at Que Pasa for like over a year now,” first year Cuesta College student and busser at Que Pasa, Zayra Solorzano says. “It’s awesome working here because they are so flexible with my school schedule.”

            Especially at the beginning of the semester they were really cool about it because I was dropping and adding so many different classes and Adrian would always change my schedule around to help, Solorzano says.

            “Adrian is really good with us college students like if one of us has a test or needs to study he will let us come in late or switch shifts,” Solorzano says. “It’s nice to have a boss who supports what you’re doing.”

            Solorzano along with other college students chose to work in the restaurant business because of the many benefits it offers including flexible hours, decent pay and experience.

The Benefits

“I’m a graphic design major so my hours of studying can vary a lot, sometimes with a lot of extra work I need to do on campus,” fourth year Cal Poly student and hostess at Que Pasa, Jenna Alvarado says.

            With graphic design a lot of work on the computer is necessary and sometimes a laptop just can’t do it, Alvarado says. Many times I need to go to campus and use the computers there or go and ask my teachers specific questions about programs.
            “I’m usually always allowed to come in a little late if I need to and Adrian is really helpful about mostly only scheduling me on weekends,” Alvarado says. “I still make enough money to live pretty nicely with tips and everything.”

            Honestly working in a restaurant can help college students a lot in their future careers, Alvarado says. There are a lot of benefits to working in a restaurant.

  • Learning to interact with all types of people

  • Teamwork skills

  • Leadership skills

  • Learning “the customer is always right”


These skills are helpful in all types of careers. Applying these basic skills in any job can lead to monumental success.

Restaurants As a Stepping-Stone

            For about 60% of the workers at Que Pasa, working in a restaurant is just a stepping-stone on the path to a higher paying job in the field of their degree. The learning experience that working in a restaurant offers can play a crucial role in helping employees succeed in their future careers.

            In college towns like San Luis Obispo restaurant businesses and college students have a symbiotic relationship because of the benefits to both.

  • Constant flow of applicants for restaurants

  • Eager and hard working employees

  • Flexible hours for students

  • Tip money for an extra cup of coffee for students

            Que Pasa is just one example of the many restaurants that benefit from the symbiotic relationship with college students. With managers like Adrian Rodriguez who recognize the importance of school, college students are able to benefit from working in a restaurant.

            With the many benefits from teamwork to money, working in a restaurant can be a helpful experience and just one step on the path to a better life.

Que Pasa
Cal Poly
Restaurant business
San Luis Obispo
Mexican cuisine


Adrian Rodriguez- (805) 215-2011
Zayra Solorzano- (805) 305- 4081
Jenna Alvarado- (619) 980- 9564


©2013 Kristina Martin. This multimedia interactive website was produced in a multimedia journalism class at California Polytechnic State University.
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