Demographics and Tastes Can Be Key to Success

Gringos and non-gringos alike are taking advantage of the exploding Costa Rican tourist industry

Editor’s note: This article is part two in a three-part series

Businesspeople looking to establish a new Hispanic small business in Costa Rican tourist towns should understand the local demographics, especially when it comes to restaurants, before simply setting up stakes. In Tamarindo, for example, there’s a pecking order of sorts, which, oddly, starts with so-called locals (gringo ex-pats), then long-term renters (again, most often Anglos), followed by tourists and finally Costa Rican natives, or ticos, who often can’t afford to live in tourist towns. This caste system is a travesty of sorts, but a reality nonetheless.

With that knowledge, however, savvy businesspeople can provide goods and services that will appeal to mainly the former three groups. Hispanic restaurants, for example, should appeal to gringo tastes. Although many Anglos go to Latin America for what they hope will be an immersive experience, most of them tire of the local fare after a while and search for familiar comfort food—which, not surprisingly, is why so many pizza restaurants have recently opened in the area.

 

 

Something for Everyone

During my many visits to Tamarindo over the course of 10 years or so, I’ve heard more than a few tourists—especially those with kids in tow—asking where they can find a good burger. Alas, there aren’t many such places available. But this is actually an opportunity for enterprising businesspeople. They can open a pseudo fast-food joint that gringo parents and kids might be pining for.

An example of this was Shark Bite, which served up deli sandwiches one might find in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles. Although it closed under rather unfortunate circumstances (its equipment and stores stripped by a temporary management staff), it was busy throughout the day and evening during its run. Similarly, a modest burger restaurant that shut down due to a fire had been a thriving business. Franchises such as Pizza Hut and Subway have been and remain similarly successful.